European clubs chase African stars

30 June 2006 at 04:03 | 1089 views

Our sports guru, Abu Shaw(photo) analyses the Brazil-Ghana match and the scramble for Ghanaian players. Enjoy:

By Abu B. Shaw, Vanguard London Bureau Chief

The hunt for the signatures of the Ghana players by top football clubs across Europe has began in earnest despite the elimination of the Black Stars by Brazil in the last sixteen of the World Cup. Ghana lost 0-3 to the Brazilians but the match was a record breaker in Germany.

Ronaldo Da Rima’s historic goal on Tuesday June 27 against Ghana made him the highest goal scorer of all time since the first edition of the World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. Ronaldo’s 15th World Cup goal has now overtaken the great German Gerd Muller whose 14th goal record had stood undefeated since the 1974 World Cup when West Germany, as it was then called, beat Holland 2-1 in the grand finale in Germany.

It is such a coincidence that this great feat by Ronaldo has occurred in this year’s World Cup also hosted by Germany. Ronaldo’s goal against Ghana Black Stars in Dortmund was pure quality. A brilliant through ball by midfielder Kaka landed in front of Ronaldo whose step over trade mark fooled Ghana’s goal keeper Richard Kingston and the three times world footballer of the year fired in to an empty net in just five minute of play.

The Ghanaians went in to full gear after this early goal. Strikers Asamoah Gyan, Haminu Dramani and Mathew Amoah all came very close to scoring but lack of composure in front of the Brazilian goal mouth thwarted these golden opportunities. The closest miss of all was defender John Mensah’s six yards header which luckily (for Brazil) hit the leg of the tall Brazilian goalie Dida who plays for AC Milan in Italy.

Brazil’s second goal in the 45th minute by Inter Milan’s striker Adriano was clearly offside but the goal stood. This blunder infuriated the Ghanaians. Things got worse for the Black Stars when Gyan Asamoah was dismissed for diving. In the 84th minute midfielder Ze Roberto chipped the ball over the onrushing Ghanaian keeper for the third and final goal for Brazil.

Ghana’s Serbia-born coach Ratomir Rujkovic was clearly unhappy with the Slovakian referee whom he described as ‘biased towards Brazil.’

This defeat notwithstanding, Ghana’s remarkable World Cup debut, one of Africa’s only five representatives to have progressed in to the last sixteen, has acted as the perfect platform for the Black Stars to show the world the good stuff embedded in the team. Beating the Czech Republic and the USA so convincingly in round one coupled with their excellent showing against the Brazilians, was enough to alert football scouts around Europe.

Leading the race in this scramble for players are Premiership clubs in England including Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspurs etc. Ghana’s versatile midfielder Muntari Sulley, who currently plays for Udinese in Italy, is on the shopping list of Manchester United. Striker Gyan Asamoah is also eyeing a possible move to England after refusing to sign for Torino in Italy. Other stars hotly pursued in England are Captain Stephen Appiah, John Mensah etc.

Chelsea’s Michael Essien, who was suspended for the Brazil game, is the inspiration for this expected exodus. Many of the Ghanaian stars prefer a move to the Premiership league in England but this has alerted many teams in Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Holland who are just waiting for the World Cup to come to an end.

Ivory Coast, arguably the best team from Africa today, has also benefited from the World Cup exposure despite their premature exit. The Elephants of Ivory Coast are blessed with gifted players including midfielders Didier Zokora, Yayah Toure etc. They are being hotly chased by many clubs in Europe.

Record breaker, Ronaldo, the Real Madrid star, still believes he can score more goals in this tournament. This is a great feat for the 29-year-old Brazilian. He leads the scoring list which also includes Juste Fontaine of France and Pele of Brazil and so on. Ronaldo was congratulated by Gerd Muller himself after scoring the opener against Ghana to make it 15 goals in all.

He did the trick in three World Cup finals. Ronaldo’s first four goals were scored in France 1998 World Cup. He got one each against Morocco and Holland and two against Chile. In 2002 Japan/South Korea World Cup, Ronaldo scored eight goals. He netted one each against China, Belguim and two each against Turkey, Costa Rica and Germany. In Germany 2006, Ronaldo has so far scored three goals, two against Japan and one past Ghana.

As always, the quarter finals which kicks off this weekend, consists of teams from Europe and Latin America only. Host Germany takes on Argentina in a cracker on Friday June 30 in Berlin. The same day, Italy will battle with Ukraine in Hamburg. On Saturday July 1, England’s three Lions will entertain Portugal in Gelsenkirchen in another grudge match. The defending champions Brazil will be out to revenge against Les Bleus of France in Frankfurt on Saturday July 1. Remember, France won the 1998 World Cup in Paris by beating Brazil.