Ghana Camp Focus – Heartbreaking defeat unites whole of Africa

You could almost feel the heartbeat of Africa grinding to a shuddering halt after one of the most eventful games at this year’s World Cup. Asamoah Gyan was understandably inconsolable after missing a 120th minute spot kick for Ghana which would have booked them a semi-final encounter with the Netherlands, who were victorious over Brazil. In what was a tense affair the Black Stars were vying to beat a tough looking Uruguay side and carry on flying the flag for the whole African continent. The harsh reality kicked in however as they were defeated 4-2 on penalties by the South Americans after a 1-1 draw and it would be fair to say Rennes striker Gyan will want to be left alone, for a while at least.

South Africa 2010 has really positioned itself as Ghana’s genuine chance to show the footballing world just what all the fuss is about with the Black Stars and their maverick supporters. Sulley Muntari was reinstated to the side after the suspended Andre Ayew was forced to sit and watch from the stands. The former Portsmouth midfielder did not disappoint as he made up for his tirade against Coach Milovan Rajevac with a stunning 40 yard strike – his rather unorthodox celebration certainly reflected the carnival atmosphere inside the Soccer City stadium. Despite Diego Forlan’s stunning free-kick levelling matters early in the second half, the Black Stars, roared on by 80 000 fans could not create the fairytale ending that so many had desired after their demise in the dreaded penalty shootout.

Nevertheless it was not to be all doom and gloom for Ghana. They have progressed massively since their last appearance in the World Cup in Germany 2006 and players such as Gyan, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Ayew and John Mensah have all impressed and developed on the international scene. There was a real feeling of unity inside Johannesburg and the pressure did not affect the Black Stars performance with the whole continent bubbling behind them. Kwesi Nyantakyi, President of Ghana’s football federation said: “We are happy that FIFA has given South Africa and Africa the opportunity for healing. We are supported by the whole of Africa. In Africa, we are one person, we have a common objective and that is why we support one another. We know we are not alone. We are trying to pursue the African cause – we will do our best.” Prior to the game Nelson Mandela had written a letter to Nyantakyi demonstrating his delight at Ghana’s progression: “On the historic occasion of the first FIFA World Cup to be hosted in Africa, it is a great pleasure to see that Ghana has reached the quarter-finals.” Truly inspiring material from the former South African President.

The Black Stars certainly did do their best to showcase Africa’s hospitality, amidst the scandal surrounding Muntari and the growing injury list leading up to the quarter-final. Horse placenta was introduced to those who were carrying knocks to get them match fit in time – not ideal preparation but the passion of Ghana reigned through. However the attention was all on Gyan after the final whistle and his tears, along with millions of other united Africans who could well have filled the Nile two or three times over. It panned out like a dramatic soap opera with the viewer never knowing which way the outcome was going to be. The one thing that is certain is this crushing defeat will have hurt Rajevac, Ghana and the whole of Africa. The unity and togetherness will hold them solid for the future and Gyan showed real guts to step up again to convert from the spot in the shootout itself. His courageous display will be admired by fans all over the globe and maybe Nicolas Anelka and Wayne Rooney should take note.

South Africa 2010 was one step too far for the Black Stars but they will be determined to go one step further when Brazil 2014 arrives. Expect to see more attacking venture from the Africans in the future with their 4-2-3-1 tactics. Expect more from Gyan who has definitely lit up this year’s tournament. Expect more passion and courageousness and expect a little bit more luck when it comes to pressure situations. In what has been another fantastic learning curve for the tournaments youngest team, Rajevac can be very proud of what his team has achieved.

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