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Ghana keep Africa's dream alive

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Paul Fletcher | 02:54 UK time, Sunday, 27 June 2010

World Cup 2010: Rustenburg

The reaction that followed Ghana's victory over the USA on a smoky Rustenburg evening told of the joy, excitement and, perhaps, relief that an African team remains in the World Cup.

Ghanaian journalists jumped up and down in the media area yelling "Africa" over and over and over, while several of the Black Stars players fell to their knees in prayer and goalkeeper Richard Kingson, excellent on the night but third choice at club side Wigan, raised his arms in thanks.

Down on the running track that surrounded the pitch at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, John Pantsil did his familiar lap of honour with the Black Stars flag.

Not far behind was Samuel Inkoom, who waved the flag of South Africa. The gesture was in recognition of the support his team had received from the huge number of local fans inside the ground and across South Africa.

Most locals that I had chatted to before the game had expressed their support for Ghana but, even so, I was astonished by the sheer number of Ghana flags being proudly waved inside the stadium after the final whistle.

Make no mistake, Ghana's 2-1 extra-time victory over the USA will resonate far beyond the borders of the west African nation.

"It means a lot to all Ghanaians and Africa as a whole," said right-back Pantsil.

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Watch highlights as Ghana beat USA 2-1 after extra-time (UK users only)

Ghanaian footballing legend Abedi Pele, whose son Andre Ayew impressed as part of an attacking midfield trio, was on the team that made Africa's presentation to Fifa during the bidding process.

"It is a wonderful night for African football," said the former Marseille favourite.

"People said we could not organise a World Cup and that an African team could not go far. We have proved people wrong."

I thought that Ghana, who became the third African nation to reach the last eight at a World Cup after Cameroon and Senegal, deserved their victory.

They had not scored from open play in this tournament and had failed to find the net more than once in a fixture in 2010. Their Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac had been accused of favouring overly defensive tactics with his 4-2-3-1 formation.

But against the States, the Black Stars approached the match with a power and purpose that their opponents seemed unable to resist.

Kevin-Prince Boateng gave Ghana an early lead and the Americans were being swamped in midfield to the extent that coach Bob Bradley withdrew struggling midfielder Ricardo Clark after just 30 minutes.

Ghana, with an average age of just over 24, surrendered the initiative after the break and invited their opponents, who equalised from the penalty spot, back into the contest. If the Americans had a clinical striker they might have won in normal time.

That Ghana do possess a top-rate forward in Asamoah Gyan proved crucial. The way he controlled a long ball forward with his chest and held off two American defenders before unleashing a rasping left-foot strike was an exhibition of classic forward play.

That winning goal came in the opening minutes of extra-time and an American team that had invested so much in drawing level proved unable to rouse themselves once more.

Several American players sat motionless in the dugout for what seemed like an age after the final whistle. Later, Landon Donovan moved through the mixed zone, where players answer questions from journalists, with the glazed expression of someone who has just received devastating news.

A few players talked about the four years of hard work that had gone into reaching this stage and I sensed a feeling of disbelief that they had blown an excellent opportunity to progress beyond the round of 16.

edu595.jpgMaurice Edu lies motionless as USA crash out of the World Cup

It would be an entirely understandable emotion. The US topped Group C to move into what looked like the favourable side of the draw - Ghana, followed by a quarter-final tie against either Uruguay or South Korea stood between them and a place in the last four. All are below the USA in the Fifa rankings.

Uruguay have performed well here in South Africa and defeated South Korea on Saturday afternoon - but I think that most teams would be happy to play them at the quarter-final stage given that so many of the world's top teams remain in the competition.

Whether Bradley's team have wasted a glorious opportunity to transform the popularity and profile of the sport back home is another matter.

There has certainly been a recent groundswell of opinion to suggest that the World Cup was making a strong impression in the US.

Supporters of Bradley's team bought more tickets than any other nation travelling to South Africa, while ESPN reported record viewing figures for the 1-0 victory over Algeria in the USA's final group game.

Bradley received a call from President Barack Obama after the late goal against Algeria. Obama had been in a meeting with General David Petraeus when Donovan struck the injury-time winner, but he could hear celebrations all the way down the West Wing.

A story relating to Donovan's private life even made front page news in the New York Post - a sure sign that the profile of the game is on the rise.

"You are getting people who follow basketball and American football taking an interest and getting behind the team," said former USA midfielder John Harkes, who has been working for ESPN in South Africa.

"American fans always love big events. I think a lot of people were waking up to the World Cup and thinking it is pretty cool."

Yet the record ESPN viewing figures were 6.1m, which might be impressive for a midweek match that kicked-off at 10am on the east coast and 7am on the west coast, but hardly strikes me as indicative of a wide-scale surge in popularity in a country of 307m.

Several American journalists told me that the World Cup will help boost the profile of the sport back home but that it is unlikely to have been a game-changer.

The fact that former US president Bill Clinton was at the fixture is unlikely to have gone unnoticed in the US. He was sat next to Mick Jagger but I doubt whether he derived much satisfaction from the result.

While the US reflect on what might have been, Ghana will now play Uruguay at Soccer City on 2 July.

It looked very possible at one point that none of the six African teams at this tournament would qualify from their group - but the Black Stars find themselves just one match away from becoming the first nation from the continent to reach a World Cup semi-final.

And you can expect most of Africa to be behind them as they attempt to make history.

You can follow me throughout the World Cup at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    It would have been such a shame for Africa to host the world cup and Africa teams to perform poorer than previous world cups that have been held elsewhere. Now Ghana have a chance to go one better and reach the semis. Uruguay are a decent opposition and Ghana should be worry of the threat they pose. Hopefully they wont be carried away and let's us see if the can make it to the semis.

  • Comment number 2.

    who cares about the profile of the game in the states? i'm glad they lost to a country to whom the win will mean much more.

  • Comment number 3.

    Everyone was cheering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after Ghana beat the USA. People here are supporting Ghana as much as they support the Ethiopian team(if we have one).

    Anyway, the journalists in Addis Ababa were yelling "GHANA IS THE PROUD OF AFRICA! GHANA IS THE PROUD OF AFRICA! GHANA IS THE PROUD OF AFRICA!" I cannot agree more!
    Keep it going black stars; all Africa is behind you!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Being a dual citizen of both countries made it a bit difficult to watch but just like in Germany 2006, I was rooting for Ghana to win. Both teams are in dire need of a world class striker, Altidore and Asamoah Gyan are good but aren't up there yet.
    USA were the better side for long spells of the game however they can't concentrate during the full length of the game leading them to concede the two fastest goals in the tournament. (Gerrard in 5 min. & Kevin Prince Boateng in 4 min.)
    Interestingly Ghana has never won against a former World Champion (Brazil, Germany, Italy) and hasn't lost to a team which isn't either (Serbia, USA, Australia, Czech Republic). Playing against Uruguay, the Black Stars have a chance to defy and make history and become the first African team to reach the semis but how they'll cope against Forlan and Luiz Suarez (who I'll love to see at Stamford Bridge alongside Ozil and Aguero) is another issue especially with Isaac Vorsah being injured since the Serbian Game. However Mexico's total dominance in their 2nd half against Uruguay gives us hope but injuries and suspension might get the better part of the Black Stars. But for now around all over Africa and diaspora, the slogan is "YES WE GYAN".

  • Comment number 5.

    I hope people don't get too excited about the prospect of Ghana making it to the sem-finals just because they are playing Uruguay. The continuing underestimation of the uruguayans is what has got them this far. They have an experienced defence that will give Gyan a lot of hard work, and their strikers as we know are very dangerous.

    However, Africa as a continent have every right to be excited. Believe, but don't expect!

  • Comment number 6.

    Ghana have proved that, with European coaching, their players can be just as good as the Europeans and South Americans. They outplayed the USA brilliantly, and certainly have a change against Uruguay. Asamoah Gyan's winning goal was a gem, especially as he could have so easily gone down when the first challenge came in.

  • Comment number 7.

    Its amazing what football can give a nation . For once everyone forgets about Politics , and the thought of everyone is football . The prayers and support giving to the Black Stars is just amazing . And just knowing the whole of Africa , and neutrals as a whole supporting this team can only surge them forward . Its gonna be a difficult game against Uruguay without Dede Ayew , and possibly Kelvin Prince Boateng but I hope who ever is called upon to take their place will do just as much . Go Ghana .. Go Africa . . . I hope England Beat Germany Today , Rooney to score .

  • Comment number 8.

    Now then,

    Thanks for your thoughts so far. "Yes we Gyan" - love it.

    I think Ghana's success is important for the World Cup - but with an injury doubt over Kevin-Prince Boateng and Andre Ayew suspended they really wil have their work cut out in their next match.

    I managed to grab a quick word with Stephen Appiah last night - this is what he made of their success:

    "With hard work you can achieve whatever you want to achieve.

    "In 2006 we were the African side that went to the next stage and in 2010 we have done even better. We will try to move it foward and we will see what will happen.

    "When we go to major tournaments people don't talk about Ghana much but we always go far. You can have 20 Maradonas in your team but without unity you will not go far.

    "Our secret is unity."

  • Comment number 9.

    @ 5 sizers101 ..Ghana is not gonna underestimate Uruguay , Ghana has been underestimated the whole of this tournament . Lot of people saying our qualification was a fluke . I must admit we have been really lucky , and hey long may it continue . I think The winner of this world cup will need a lil bit of that at the least .

  • Comment number 10.

    Hey all africa:
    I am proud at our team Black stars.i hope they will go throgh again.Last night i watched the Game here in Adddis,at capital of Africa.Please Africa pray for Black stars.......
    Gudeta
    Addis Ababa,Ethiopia

  • Comment number 11.

    Cameroun has four world cup victories from six outings,Ghana has four from two outings,Nigeria qualified from the group stage twice from four outings(previous African record),Ghana qualified from the group stage twice from two outings. And Ghana can still improve on all these.Make no mistake and let it sound all over Africa: Ghana is now the most succesful African nation at the world cup!

  • Comment number 12.

    Tooga4mutd- I'm sure they won't, but we have seen the expectation that South Africa had of their players. Some people here were even talking of winning the whole thing. After the Mexico game they thought they would coast through Uruguay, which resulted in a severe backlash.

    Lets just hope there's not now a blind expectation of Ghana making it through.

  • Comment number 13.

    The fact they've done all this without arguably their best player, Michael Essien, is even more impressive. I think most teams, perhaps excluding Spain with their wealth of talent in the centre of midfield, would miss his presence.
    With Africa behind them, if they play like they did against the States, especially Kingson, I see no reason why they can't be the first African nation to get to the last 4 of the world cup.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sizers101 - Fair enough . For them to reach the QF is an achievement of its own , This is Ghana 2nd World Cup and so far so good . Here in Ghana our expectations of the team is to go a step further from the last WC . We have done that , so whatever the result , they are already considered heroes here . . @ Paul Fletcher ... what do you think of Adrew Dede Ayew and Anthony Annan , I think they have been pretty amazing in this tournament . Annan has been a rock in the midfield , do you think both players can fit in well in EPL ? I also think the transformation of the lads from U20 has really done wonders for the Ghana team . Andrew Dede Ayew has really improved right from winning the Africa U20 cup , World U20 cup , and his performance in reaching the Africa Nations Cup Final . . but He doesnt seem to be getting a lot of attention because He is from Africa , I think he is putting in muc of a good performance as ozil of Germany is . What do you think ?

  • Comment number 15.

    Well done to Ghana. Really enjoy their football. If they could replicate their build up play in the final 3rd, they'd be one of the favourites.

  • Comment number 16.

    'You can have 20 Maradonas in your team but without unity you will not go far'. Surely you could only ever have 11 Maradonas in your team?! Regardless, a great win for Ghana and I really hope they get a crack at the semis. Uruguay have impressed me but the prospect of seeing a whole continent behind one team so intensely would be something special.

  • Comment number 17.

    worth the victory just to see the glorious Pantsil lap of honour, football needs more characters of his ilk. Big fan of his single sleeve action too. Get in Ghana!

  • Comment number 18.

    @16 By your logic, there should be 10 Maradonas. Cant you realise Appiah was talking about the whole squad and not the starting 11? Appiah has been a wonderful leader and is the very reason why the Ghanaian team is so united. Abedi, despite his immense talent and contribution could not unite the team and that cost the team and himself an appearance at the world cup. It took a team of players of less quality to qualify Ghana to the mundial and see how far their unity has brought them. The continent is truly proud of them.

    A fit-again Essian will surely cause a lot of headaches to the Ghana manager.

  • Comment number 19.

    Great read Paul..thanks! I think Ghana claiming to be 'doing it for all Africa' is a bit of a no-brainer on their part though. Ask any team with a bit of intelligence and it isn't meant as a criticism - if you claim to be doing it for the locals as well you'll gain unbelievable support, credit and goodwill the world over plus most importantly that crucial extra '12th man' on the pitch - what would any of them say? Bit cynical I know...but that's mainly why I thought England avoiding the last surviving Africans - Ghana in round 2 wasn't as bad as most thought. 'Unity' and team spirit can take a side a long way - just lok at Greece in Euro'04.

    The only real 'spanners in the works' for the 'Black Stars' are injuries and suspensions plus over enthusiasm which might make them panic a bit on the ball when coming up against the South-American keep-ball style.

  • Comment number 20.

    Ghana wining is much more important for their country, than the USA. Lets remind ourselves that Zac Efron thought 'AC Milan have a really good chance of winning the worlds cup this year'. Shocking!

  • Comment number 21.

    So pleased to see Ghana win , you worked so hard for it and never gave in , so many people so happy .
    Each individual allowed to take the initiative , yet moving as a team .
    Heads high , Africa , this is your century starting !

  • Comment number 22.

    Might not love the style of play but still glad to win.

    One thing about this current stars team is it's a team full of captains. That mental strength is present and maybe that might be enough.

    This one is for Africa, for Nkrumah, it's the year of his centenary and there can be no better commemoration than with a knife point performance by Ghana for Africa.

  • Comment number 23.

    Yep, there is definitely a lot of goodwill towards Ghana - and they can expect a great deal of support when they play Uruguay.

    The one absent African team that I wish had made it to the World Cup is Egpyt. I think Mohamed Aboutrika is an excellent player and it would have been interesting to see how a team so dominant in African football went on in South Africa.

  • Comment number 24.

    AS a proud Ghanaian,I must say I am beaming from ear to ear.Europeans will never understand but as an African,I always support African teams at the world cup.I was a Senegalese during Senegal's great run at the 2002 world cup.I was so disappointed like any Nigerian when Nigeria failed to beat South Korea and hoped Brazil would beat Portugal so CIV could go true.Africans are really brothers.In our local languages,we don't have a word for 'cousin'.We only have brothers and sisters.Most Africans are indeed behind Ghana and we are doing it for Africa.Those who don't understand should just respect us and leave us alone.We are a united continent.

  • Comment number 25.

    Thank you Ghana – Africa is proud of the Black Stars: the Pride of Africa. We are in the quarter final.

  • Comment number 26.

    Ghana played a great game against the US, and I'm happy for their victory. I do think that the United States played with a lot of heart, and they left their country a team to be proud of, even if the result was disappointing.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmCvuJdTKSo

  • Comment number 27.

    As a newcomer watching World Cup football this weekend, I'm struck by the prevalence of issues that arise from an overreliance upon a single referee to oversee game play. Was there not a disproportionate number fouls committed by Ghana players in Saturday's game against the USA that went un-penalized? The commentators I was listening to clearly noted several of these made against attackers approaching the Ghana goal. And then comes the huge referee error in today's England-Germany game where a clear goal was not marked. Yes, referees are human and make errors, but mistakes of such consequence shouldn't be tolerated in one of the biggest sporting events in the world. FIFA needs change, and I say they need to implement video technology to review and change bad decisions. Fair play is fair play, and this ideal is proving elusive in the World Cup, with referee bias or mistakes enabling excessive foul play (Ghana) or lost goals (England). One can argue about the tradition and flavor of football, but in my view that flavor needs to be changed by implementing a more precise and objective method of refereeing the games.

  • Comment number 28.

    As a lifelong American soccer fan, I'm disappointed the USA lost. However, Ghana was a very deserving winner. Boateng & Gyan's goals were magnificent. Both teams played with heart and determination. But Ghana is playing for an entire continent. I think the Americans earned a great deal of respect for their play. The sport is growing here, and suffering these disappointments may make Americans hungrier for World Cup success in the future. Good luck to Ghana in the next round. I think most Americans will now root for Ghana to get through to the Final.

  • Comment number 29.

    We are very Proud of Ghana. The Spirit of Kwame Nkrumah is alive and Kicking.

  • Comment number 30.

    The Ghanaian Team does not underestimate any other Team. They are just a bunch of youngsters who like to play the game and listen very well to the Coach.I wish the Ghanaian officials can appeal the yellow card shown Ayew. It was not an intentional tripping of the opponent.
    I hope that for once an African Team can make it to the Semis, that will be very good and boast up the morale of African kids everywhere.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hello Africa, who said Africa is out of this world cup. If you said so them you are wrong. Go Ghana Go.I'm proud of my mother land and is my prayer they far from where they have reached. Ghana is for the semi-final. Ghana Africa is behind you. Kudos to the team.

  • Comment number 32.

    The USA will adopt the Ghana team for the rest of the World Cup.

  • Comment number 33.

    I really don't understand the sour grapes. The weekend game against England drew more than 11 million viewers on the TV set, and even weekday games have gotten 6.5 million. That's roughly how many people were disappointed by the exit. So no, it doesn't mean more to Ghana.

    Besides, if soccer (yes, I choose soccer) really means nothing to this country, then what does it say about England who got eliminated at the same stage and in fact finished lower in the group?

    Two World Cup games so far and you still haven't beaten us. Where's the gloating coming from?

  • Comment number 34.

    You should have been in Nairobi-spontaneous celebration in all the pubs. It was like our National team had won the world cup!

  • Comment number 35.

    Wow Ghana are still in the WC and the 'best' English players from the 'best' league in the world are coming home. Do Ghana have a league!?!

    That is just superb...what a day for Africa!

  • Comment number 36.

    It has been a wonderful, uplifting performance by the Black Stars which has made us all feel good. It is sickening, however, to have to hear the sour grapes ignorance spewed by the likes of Alex Lalas; it was "only Ghana" and the loss was to a country "the size of Oregon". Despite a mediocre performance in the group stages rescued by the last-minute Donovan goal against Algeria (who were the only team not to score an early goal against the porous US defence)you would have thought the US and its players were actually world-beaters. Apart from maybe 30 minutes of continuous pressure in the second half, during which they got their penalty goal the US was clearly second best to Ghana, as in 2006.
    Now, if you believe ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel etc., all Uruguay have to do is turn up and they will be in the Semis. I think the relative performances of both teams in this tournament points to a very closely-fought game, one which the Black Stars have an equal chance of winning.
    Go Black Stars!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 37.


    Ghana is the only second placed team from the 8 pools that has reached the QFs. The other 7 have been toppers in their respective pools.

    The fourth placed team in Group D was Serbia who had beaten the Germans and ended their campaign with one win and two defeats. That is again a group where the last team has scored a victory unlike in the 7 other pools.

    At the Group Phase, the Black Stars were certainly in the toughest pool. In the PQFs once again they put up a brave show. The other African sides demonstrated skill and enthusiasm. Ivory Coast and South Africa almost made it. African football has come a long way.

    Nice blog. Thanks Paul.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 38.

    I would like to take this moment to say…that football although it is just a game…international football is about much more….It is about drive…honour….and pride. I am proud to be a Ghanaian. I felt the drive and the passion that the Black Stars assigned to each kick and every tackle for 90minutes and beyond. I feel honoured that the Black Stars played with an integrity of purpose. An integrity that obviously eluded Luis Suarez. I am proud that my Black Stars had the strength of character to give everything for their country. Although our world cup has come to an end I shall remember this 2010 African Affair till the end of my days. And I now zealously await our return to glory in the next world cup Brazil 2014!!!

    www.valerielabi.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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