Ghana Camp Focus - Strong start from Black Stars
Ghana became the first African side to record a win on home soil in this year’s World Cup after they defeated 10-man Serbia 1-0. Asamoah Gyan scored from the penalty spot with just five minutes remaining following a handball from Zdravko Kuzmanovic. The Rennes man stepped up to dispatch from 12 yards with aplomb.
Gyan was unlucky not to add to his tally when his shot bounced back off the post deep into injury time with Serbian keeper Vladimir Stojkovic well beaten. The Black Stars got their just reward after an entertaining Group D encounter which saw plenty of attacking menace from both sides. John Mensah started the game as captain for Ghana as usual skipper Stephen Appiah could only make the bench. Mensah impressed throughout as the Sunderland man structured his defence well. This was echoed in midfield and attack as the Serbs vehemently struggled to break down a vastly energetic Ghana side. Kevin-Prince Boateng, making only his second appearance in a Black Stars shirt, had a prominent grasp on the game and the lively Gyan was a constant thorn to the Serb defence throughout.
Inter midfielder Sulley Muntari was missing from the Ghanaian starting XI after he failed to recover from a niggling thigh injury. The former Portsmouth midfielder’s expected absence had given the Serbs a slight psychological edge as Ghana were also without Michael Essien, who has been ruled out for the whole tournament. However this did not affect the Black Stars as their bustling energy and fiery passion had Serbian manager Raddy Antic looking anxious on the sidelines.
The Ghanaians are quickly building a reputation for themselves as a genuine contender to be the World Cup’s first African winner - a feat which will probably come too soon for this year’s current crop, with an average age of just 25 the players are too young and in experienced but you have to give them credit where it’s due. The vibrancy that Milovan Rajevac has installed into the team and with the benefit of playing on home soil has certainly helped the Black Stars. After his winning goal Gyan said: "Every African is behind us. I salute all you guys. We win this match for you. This is all I have worked for and to be man of the match is fantastic."
Heartening words from Gyan and this will be a huge boost to their fans, as well as every African supporting them in this year’s tournament. Ghana are adapting quickly to the style of European football and how to it as the Serbs could hardly find a way round the organised Africans. Their best chance in the first-half came from a long range free-kick which curled just wide from Aleksandar Kolarov. Other than that, Milos Krasic had a vicious shot saved from 12 yards by Richard Kingson.
If Muntari is fit for the Australia game it will be difficult to see him breaking straight back into the squad. It would be harsh on Andre Ayew who had an encouraging game on the left hand side as one of three attacking midfielders Rajevac had selected. The Champions League winner has had history with the Coach and was subsequently left out of the African Cup of Nations squad earlier this year but has since rekindled his differences with the Serb to earn himself a key role in the Black Stars line up.
Friction may flare again if Muntari cannot force himself back into the squad as quickly as he would like due to the form of Ayew. Rajevac must be aware of any possible reoccurrence and deal with it accordingly before it affects the rest of the squad and their preparations. It would be interesting to see how the Black Stars would cope with unrest in the camp but this, of course, is something that is unlikely to happen.
Therefore a very encouraging start from the Africans in their quest for the knock out stages as they displayed some divine attacking displays as they lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Expect the same when Ghana meet Australia on Saturday and if Sunday’s mauling by Germany was not embarrassing enough, Ghana will be showing them no mercy either.
If Muntari does return to the side the Black Stars will add more experience and the return of Appiah can only better the side further. Anticipate more glitz and glamour from every Ghanaian as they continue on their expedition to one day, become the first African winners of the World Cup .