World Cup Update: Ghana stuns the World in Germany

19 June 2006 at 02:00 | 1183 views

By Abu B. Shaw, Vanguard London Bureau Chief

Africa has finally emerged in Germany for the World Cup thanks to the twinkle twinkle Black Stars, the national football team of Ghana, whose remarkable display has ushered in the much awaited brightness over the blackened horizon of African football.

Ghana’s stunning victory over the Czech Republic, the second best football nation in the world after Brazil according to FIFA ranking, has once more brought pride to all African football fans and the continent in general.

Considering the elimination of Africa’s strongest side, the Elephants of Ivory Coast from the World Cup and the likelihood of the other African ambassadors to follow suit, Black Stars’ victory on Saturday June 17 against Pavel Nedved’s highly rated Czechs has made the euphoria even more unique.

This victory, which has thrown Group E wide open, was grabbed as early as 70 seconds of the match after Ghana’s Captain Stephen Appiah made a clever pass to diminutive striker Asamoah Gyan who shot past Czechs goalie Petr Cech for the opener.

The Czech Republic thought they had grabbed an equaliser just a minute in to the second half when Karel Poborsky connected Juventus midfielder Pavel Nedved who netted a header, but the referee ruled it out for offside.

In the 65th minute, Ghana was awarded a penalty after Tomas Ujfalusi was red carded by the Argentinian referee Horacio Elizondo for bringing down Matthew Amoah in the box. But Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty kick.

At the jam- packed Rhein Energie Stadion, the Czechs succumbed to another stunner in the 82nd minute by Italy based Udinese midfielder Sulley Muntari whose left footer sealed a remarkable 2-0 victory leaving the doubting Thomases absolutely stunned.

It was a proud moment for African football especially when the Czech goal keeper Petr Cech, who plays for the Premiership champions Chelsea, continued to make outstanding saves to prevent a total humiliation of the Czech Republic.

Chelsea team mate, Michael Essien proved his versatility as he took control of the midfield together with Muntari and Appiah. At the end of the whistle, midfield maestro Essien, who swapped shirts with his Chelsea team mate goal keeper Petr Cech, praised the goalie for his fantastic performance.

“I am very happy to win against the Czech Republic. We’re very proud to win our first game in the World Cup. It’s very important for all African nations that one of us goes through to the next round. We can beat the USA if we play like we did today,” said Michael Essien, who was voted man of the match.

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic, whose position was under threat coming in to the World Cup, was naturally thrilled with his side’s superb performance. “You know as a coach that you always have your luggage packed, so you are ready to go.”

Czechs’ coach Karel Bruckner said: “We worked very hard and I could not fault my players for the lack of effort. I have to congratulate Ghana because their attacks were extraordinary.”

This uniqueness has been a feature of Ghana’s Group E consisting of Ghana, USA, Italy and Czech Republic. Any of these four can qualify for the last sixteen. It is the only one in the World Cup groupings which has not got a qualifier for the knock out stages despite having played two matches each. Ghana is sure to book their place in the second round if they beat USA on Thursday June 22. USA drew with Italy 1-1 on Saturday June 17.

Now that Ivory Coast has been shown the exit door after Holland won 2-1, the other African teams are still battling for survival. Angola has temporarily survived after they drew with Mexico 0-0. In Group D Angola must beat Iran with plenty of goals on Wednesday June 21 and hope that Mexico loses to Portugal the same day to see them through.

Tunisia, who drew 1-1 with Saudi Arabia must beat Spain on Monday June 19 and must also dismiss Ukraine on Friday June 23 to see them survive in Group H.

Shambolic Togo is scheduled to play Switzerland on Monday June 19 but this game is in doubt as they have threatened to boycott the game for monetary issues. Togo need to win this match and must also win against France on Friday June 23 if they are to go through. France blew their chance on Sunday June 18 when the South Koreans held them to one all draw.

In other World Cup news, the host Germany, Ecuador, England, Holland, Argentina, Portugal have so far qualified for the next round. Brazil booked its next round ticket on Sunday June 18 after they overran Australia 2-0.

Photo: Black Stars celebrate. Muntari is bottom left.

Photo Credit: BBC