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2014 World Cup: Ghana carrying Africa's brightest hopes in Brazil

Published on: 01 June 2014

It is a patronising cliche that teams from Africa are enthusiastic and naive, but Ghana remains one of the best-drilled sides from the continent.

The morning after the brutal heartbreak, Ghana’s players went to visit Nelson Mandela, a man who had spent a lifetime forgiving. They walked ashen-faced through the compound of his Johannesburg home, no one in any mood to laugh or exchange pleasantries. Only the coach Milovan Rajevac offered a weak smile to the cameras, trying — perhaps in vain — to convince his lot it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.

“It’s a game; we can’t say we were robbed,” the midfielder Sulley Muntari said. “We didn’t utilise our chances; so we can’t say it’s robbing. We’re not here to criticise anybody.”

“I’m OK,” said Asamoah Gyan. “I’m all right.” He had left Soccer City in tears, perhaps blaming himself for some of what happened.

They then travelled to Soweto to meet Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the great man’s ex-wife. “Not really good,” Muntari said, when asked how he felt. “But Mr. Mandela and his wife — they give us some happiness. We will come back.”

Huge crowds gathered in the predominantly black township to welcome Ghana. “The Hope of Africa” one poster read, while the spokesman of the African National Congress congratulated the Black Stars for doing ‘Mother Africa’ proud.

No African team had reached the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup and in 2010, Ghana was denied by the width of a crossbar and an errant hand. Deep into extra-time in the quarter-finals with Uruguay — so deep there wasn’t time for another kick — Dominic Adiyiah’s shot was palmed off the line by Luis Suarez. It was a handball so blatant even Suarez didn’t protest when he was sent off (although he brilliantly feigned surprise).

Gyan missed from the spot, the ball ricocheting off the bar and disappearing into the stands behind. Suarez, still at the mouth of the tunnel with his shirt drawn up to his face, took off in celebration.

It went to penalties, when Gyan bravely stepped up and converted but John Mensah and Adiyiah failed as an inconsolable Ghana bowed out.

Suarez expressed no regret. “The Hand of God now belongs to me; mine is the real Hand of God,” he said later. “I made the best save of the tournament. Sometimes in training I play as a goalkeeper so it was worth it. Stopping a goal with my hand I believe I did nothing evil, it was just stopping a goal.”

To Uruguay, Suarez was a hero, a professional who took even the smallest chance there was and sacrificed his spot in the semi-finals for the sake of the team. To the whole of Africa, he was a villain whose skulduggery had done Ghana in.

South Africa was Ghana’s second appearance in the finals. Grouped alongside Serbia, Australia and Germany, the side advanced to the Round of 16 with four points. The USA presented a hurdle there, but Ghana prevailed in extra-time, Gyan controlling a long ball from the back and finishing superbly past Tim Howard. With a squad boasting players in the top European leagues and with experience of one World Cup, all it needed was for the team to be tactically wise.

Ghana first qualified for the tournament in 2006, when it notably progressed out of a group with Italy, the Czech Republic and the USA in it. There was defeat in the second round to Brazil, but there was no dishonour in it.

It is a patronising cliche that teams from Africa are enthusiastic and naive, but Ghana remains one of the best-drilled sides from the continent. The hope is, however, that its legacy in the near future won’t come to be defined by that handball.

One of the best out of Africa

Alongside George Weah, Roger Milla and Rabah Madjer, Abedi Pele Ayew (in pic) is one of the greatest footballers to have come out of Africa. Quick, deft in tight spaces, and possessing of a fine left foot, Pele - nicknamed so for his ability - was one of the initial African players to make a splash in Europe. He spent five seasons in all at Marseille, winning the UEFA Champions League in 1993 as part of a side that included Rudi Voeller, Didier Deschamps, Marcel Desailly and a young Fabien Barthez.

Two years before, Marseille had lost in the final of the same competition - Pele, Jean-Pierre Papin and Chris Waddle a famous trio - to the last of the great Red Star Belgrade teams. No other French club has won Europe's principal club competition. Pele was African Footballer of the Year three times. He led Ghana to the African Cup of Nations in 1982, and was the country's highest scorer (33 goals) till Asamoah Gyan overtook him. Pele's sons, Andre Ayew and Jordan Ayew, are both regulars in the national side while a third son, Ibrahim Ayew, has also represented the country.

Shreedutta Chidananda


This article has 16 comment(s), give your comment
  • Nimo says:
    June 01, 2014 09:30 am
    AA is just a stubborn coach who should be sacked with no hesitation if we get kicked out in the first round. I wonder why he played nearly the same line up that performed below average against montenegro. Has he forgotten the squad that trashed egypt was full of our best quality players? why he is gone downhill now starting all those average players, is he getting overconfident? he needs some chastisement I think. Start our damn quality players AA, don't rely on average players who work hard but lack quality. Quality is Key!!!!! Our best quality plays known all over the world are: -----------------------------GYAN------------------------------- MUNTARI-----------KP BOATENG----------------A. AYEW ------------K. ASAMOAH-----------ESSIEN------------------- AFFUL-----------BOYE--------JONATHAN--------OPARE ------------------------KWARASEY-------------------------- Best subs: ACQUAH FOR ESSIEN ATSU FOR MUNTARI WARRIS FOR GYAN Give this to Akwasi Appiah.
  • duke says:
    June 01, 2014 09:37 am
    Mali will whip your world cup team, by sheer intelligent play
  • Dwayne says:
    June 01, 2014 09:38 am
    @nimo...this line-up will surely earn us a win against USA...
  • NONI(9JA 1ST SON) says:
    June 01, 2014 08:39 am
    if the rubbish and kwasia team i watched played against HOLLAND yesterday is what you are saying will bring pride to africa then africa is doomed for life.... stupid team with just a single highlight against HOLLAND.... Mehn wahala dey ooooo.
  • benny says:
    June 01, 2014 09:15 am
    ZG GH4LIFE, you are being judgemental. The mere fact that the players did not wave other than Asamoah Gyan doesn't make them unfriendly. Did you also have pictures just like Papadinho claimed and managed to get over 100 emails and phone numbers of people?
  • ZG GH4LIFE says:
    June 01, 2014 08:01 am
    Wow am happy today,am on my way to Ghana and my plane stopped at amsterdam in holland and i just saw the whole blackstar team at the airport on their way to ;USA, thats was nice, Asamoah Gyan was the only nice one that was waved at us, all the others where kinda not friendly at all,
  • kwame says:
    June 02, 2014 02:36 pm
    Really I thought people who made comments about football at this level would understand the game. Do you guys really thick AA put out his best team. He is still in the process of picking his final 23 and this game was the final chance to see all the players he had doubts about. I for one did not expect a competitive hard game. Put out the best team, play hard now and injure five or six of your best players. How would that make sense and improve our chances on the BIG stage. Give AA his dues. The man knows what he is doing. The current German coach believes AA knows what he is doing, so does the Former England coach Terry Vennables to name just a few PROFESSIONALS. Ghanaians need to learn how to control their emotions, be patient and unite and move forward as a powerful footballing force unstoppable by any nation.
  • Jaja says:
    June 01, 2014 12:33 pm
    Essien is a flop nowadays. It is Acquah's time to shine.
  • Africanus says:
    June 01, 2014 03:10 pm
    Drop Essien he was terrible yesterday, our midfield collapsed in the first half leaving our defense totally exposed.
  • GHANSON says:
    June 01, 2014 03:38 pm
    Ghanaians dey rush toooo much!! Damn! Can we all just Support the team and coach for once instead of all these fruitless talks?? Come on don't You guys think some of these players have been reading our posts here? It is very important we boost their spirits n morals instead of all the negative comments. I'm 100% Ghanaian but I will tell u ghanains r the most ANNOYING ppl in Africa... where is the unity? smfh
  • GHANSON says:
    June 01, 2014 03:44 pm
    For example :: we shall THRASH Germany! We will DEMOLISH Portugal. And send Yankee on an early flight back home.. These kind of comments will boost the VIM of individual players who read our posts and that confidence will be spread to other teammates like a virus... instead of dissing this one and that one... so the **** what if we don't lift the trophy? at least we were there!
  • Yeboahaugustino says:
    June 01, 2014 04:11 pm
    good squad to Ghana
  • Easy says:
    June 01, 2014 10:38 am
    Nimo , is a good line up , but I think K. Asamoah should play left back .Afful on Subs in case K . ASamah get tired , we cannot used all our best players to start de game , to have a good bench is very important to win games , beside we don't have many left back players. Essien n Acquah in the middle
  • ginger says:
    June 01, 2014 07:52 am
    Keep on hyping yourselves, ghana can only be hope of africa in RUGBY not in beatiful game called soccer, we all saw d climpse of what ghana can do in brazil last night, they were playing without pattern, no team work, no cohesion, d defence was horrible, d attack was next to nothing bcos for d intire first half no shot on target. U can also sense act of indiscipline in dat team when akamiko got injured no body was ready to come in, dat led AA to be somehow frudstrated.... Muntari is not a descipline player he is full of ego..all of these are what keshi was trying to avoid dat made him drop some of his best legs
  • duke says:
    June 01, 2014 09:34 am
    Silly Ghana write up. Did Abedi Pele win the 'World Best Player'...Ghana always feel they play good soccer,No.Ghana are too physical,rough and unintelligent
  • CD says:
    June 01, 2014 12:08 pm
    Hi one two testin mic