Ghana carry hopes of Africa in knockout stage
Ghana, the self-styled “Brazil of Africa”, will carry the hopes of a continent when they take on the United States for a place in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
In the year when many African nations mark the 5Oth anniversary of their independence, it is fitting that Ghana, which heralded the end of colonial rule in Africa, should have become the continent’s flag-bearer at the World Cup.
Ghana, the runners-up in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, are the only African squad to have qualified for the knock-out stage of the first World Cup organised on African soil.
On paper, the Black Stars are looking at a unique opportunity to become the first African nation to reach a semi-final, having ended up in the weaker quarter of the table, with the USA, Uruguay and South Korea.
But coach Milovan Rajevac is wary of the fighting spirit displayed so far by the US team.
“Until the final whistle, you never know how to deal with America,” he said, cautioning that the USA had “grown into a football superpower”.
Rajevac has urged South Africans to rally behind Ghana now that their team, the Bafana Bafana, are out. His call, its seems, has been heard far and wide.
Upon Ghana’s qualification on Wednesday, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) issued a statement congratulating the Black Stars “for doing Africa proud”.
With African powerhouses Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon and Algeria also out, the eyes of a continent have turned to the Black Stars.
Ghanaian midfielder Anthony Annan has vowed not to let them down. “I believe all African countries are supporting us and we are not going to disappoint them,” he told reporters on Friday.
A cradle of football talents
Like most of his teammates, Annan is a pure product of Ghana’s training centres for youths.
Alhaji Sly Tetteh, the president of the Liberty Professionals Football Club in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, has seen the likes of Michael Essien, Derek Boateng and Daniel Aggei tread the club’s training ground.
“I am proud of the players that have gone through the Liberty Professionals. I'm sure Ghana is looking at a stage where we advance to the semi-finals and then on to the final,” he told FRANCE 24’s reporters in Accra.
In the streets of the capital, the next generation of Ghanaian footballers is busy knocking about footballs. “I train hard to become like them [the Black Stars],” says one youth.
Waving above him, the national flag recalls Ghana’s claim to represent a continent. “Red, Gold, Green, all of Africa, our power is the black star inside the yellow,” explains one bystander. “No one can stop this.”