Abysmal performances from so-called giants of African football in the 2010 World Cup forced Africa to hang her hopes on the shoulders of Ghana‘s Black Stars. Africa could not afford to fizzle out of her own World Cup!
So it was that with all of Africa behind them, the young Ghanaian team went out on Wednesday night with one aim in mind – qualify to the next round of the World Cup, and qualify they did. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t smooth, and it didn’t come without wrecking some nerves, but the job was done.
Knowing how The Black Stars had not scored in open play throughout the World Cup, many supporters were tensed throughout the game. Several hours to the game, pockets of fans could be spotted in nervous debates over Ghana’s chances.
Fans kept the pressure bottle up in anticipation of a favourable result. And each time the Germans knocked on Ghana’s goal, one could literally feel the thickness of the tension. I lost count how many times my heart missed a beat or two as Ghana came close to score on a number of occasions.
Just when fans were beginning to believe Ghana was impermeable, the unexpected happened. Germany’s Mesut Oezil’s blazed a firry shot past the aging Richard Kingson. The Jabulani will not disappoint. Africa’s woes at its own World Cup appeared to have worsened.
But the gods of football would have the final say. The issue was not to be settled that easily. Word came in that Australia had beaten Serbia by a lone goal. The football mathematicians went to work immediately; even Black Stars players were caught on camera calculating Ghana’s chances based on this ray of hope.
A roar of excitement or perhaps sweet relief met the referee’s final whistle in the neighbourhoods of Accra. The 0-1 loss to Germany will not have any effect; Ghana will qualify to the second round of South Africa 2010. A win, a draw and a loss with two goals for [all of which came from penalties from handballs] and two goals against was all it took to keep Africa’s dream alive.
Jubilant fans poured onto the streets and pubs to let off tons of bottled up tension. Word from Kumasi’s ethereal Bantama High Street had it that fans partied deep into the night. Similar celebrations were reported from Wa in the Upper West Region. And although the joy of the fans might have been deeper if Ghana had beaten Australia and Germany, fans celebrated still went ahead to celebrate their relief from one of the most nerve-racking day in Ghanaian football history.
They knew that it wasn’t pretty, but they tooted their car horns and blew their vuvuzelas to ear-jarring decibels anyway. Fans were not unaware that Ghana only qualified by the skin of the teeth, but they waved their flags all night anyway. ‘Pity today is a Wednesday. Had it been a weekend, I would have tripled my sales.’ A bar operator at Lapaz, a suburb of Accra told me.
It wasn’t pretty, but the job was done. One gets a sense of déjà vu already. At the African Nations Cup, Angola 2010, Ghana lost to the Ivory Coast in the Group stages, yet it was Ghana’s anthem which was played in the final.
Milovan Rajevac has his work cut out for him. Although Ghana’s counter attack and defence seems to have improved, the general consensus among Ghanaian fans is that Rajevac needs to work on his team’s goal scoring abilities if Ghana is to overcome the United States and go on to meet Uruguay, South Korea and others.