2010 FIFA World Cup: Ghana's Black Stars - Watch Out in 2014
Before South Africa's final group game against France, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner and beaming Bafana Bafana fan, believed that a fairy tale would see the team to the next round. He added that one fairy tale had already come true. 25 years ago, when the fight against Apartheid was at its most brutal, no South African could have ever imagined that they would be hosting the World Cup in 2010.
It seemed an impossible dream but at halftime three of the five goals needed by Uruguay and Bafana were already in the books.
Sadly that never happened but as the Uruguay — Ghana semi-final progressed I began to think that Tutu's fairy tale was the Black Stars becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals with the added bonus being that it would be on African soil. South African fans took to the Black Stars, calling them 'Baghana, Baghana'.
After an uncomfortable first 20 minutes of the game Uruguay had done everything but score, I thought oh well, without Michael Essien and the critical suspension of Andew Ayew they had done the best they could.
Ghana woke up and outplayed Uruguay for much of the remainder of the game. At times, they looked more Brazilian than Brazil with their quick passing and their ability to beat their man.
Little could anyone watching suspect that the fairy tail would turn into a Shakespearean tragedy. It will go down in World Cup history as the most incredible ending to a game as well as matching the tragic irony of the West Germany — France semi-final in 1982.
In extra time, I was willing them to score because I knew that if the game went to penalties they wouldn't win.
I suspect the team is still in denial but they visited yesterday with Nelson Mandela at his home in Johannesburg. For at least a day all Africans were Ghanaian.
Despite their loss Ghana showed the world their potential. They can also show other African nations how to build a team that can compete successfully at the World Cup. The talent is there. The Ghanaian FA provided continuity by appointing Milovan Rajevac, their Serbian coach two years ago, provided the funding and took a step back. Rajevac's contract is up next month but hopefully he can be persuaded to stay for another four years.
If you think the German team is young, Ghana had an even younger team at the cup. They won the FIFA World U-20 Cup last year beating Brazil in the final. Six members of that team played in this World Cup, with all but one getting playing time in the finals.
In all probability only 3-4 of the players will be too old for 2014. Bear in mind, Ghana were a penalty kick away from going to the semi-finals without their best player Michael Essien who was injured and had to withdraw from the team. He is only 28 and will probably be the team leader in Brazil.
Their inexperience betrayed them at times but their incredible talent was often evident. Some of the keys to their future are: (Their age is after the name.)
Jonathan Mensah (D — 19) He and his namesake John Mensah closed down the German frontline. He was as good in the first half against the U.S. but faded in the second half, giving away the penalty and getting a second yellow which kept him out of the quarter final. He has signed with Udinese in Italy after playing for a middling Premier League team for the past 2 years.
Andrew Ayew (M — 20) His father is Abedi Pele, 3 time African Footballer of the year. He was a child prodigy signed by Olympique Marseilles. His career faltered and he was loaned out to a French 2nd division team last season. After his performance in the finals he will be back with Marseille this year. He was the top rated Ghanaian player in their defeat of Serbia and gave Philipp Lahm headaches all through their game against Germany. He also beat Steve Cherondolo virtually every time in the first half. He picked up a ridiculous yellow when Jozy Altidore tripped over his own feet. As it was his second yellow in the tournament he also missed the quarter final.
Dominic Adiyah (F — 20) He won both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball (best player) at the U-20 championships and was immediately signed by A.C. Milan. He only saw action in extra time against Uruguay but showed enough to see why. He would have been an instant hero to Ghana and all of Africa had Luis Suarez not stopped him from scoring the winner.
Kwadwo Asamoah (M — 21) Asamoah has already established himself as a key player for Udinese. He played all but 30 minutes of Ghana's World Cup and garnered an 8.87 Castrol index rating, the highest on the team. His value has been estimated at about 30 million euros,
Others who impressed where Anthony Annan (M — 22), Samuel Inkoom (D — 21) and Lee Addy (D - 19). Asimoah Gyan, Kevin Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari will all still be in their twenties when Brazil 2014 rolls around.
Expect fireworks along with a lot more maturity in four years time. There is no reason why Ghana cannot become a world power in the near future.
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