The last time Ghanaians trusted the modern Black Stars to deliver at any tournament was at the Senegal 1992 Nations Cup. Back then, Bukhard Ziese had built a solid team, close to E.K. Afranie’s Lybia 1982 winning team and World U-17 winning coach Otto Pfiester had taken over the Black Stars job had an easy task.
I recall how as a high school kid I had to struggle for a spot in the houses of one of the few teachers who was rich enough to own a coloured television on campus just to catch the games live from Ziguinchor.
Since then, one internal problem after the other had robbed Ghanaians of the trust they should have put in the Black Stars. Even when Ghana hosted the tournament in 2008, anger at Claude Leroy for handing call-ups to unfit Shilla Illiasu and rookies like Kwadwo Asamoah, Andre Ayew and Harrison Afful gave rise to serious doubts about how far Ghana’s team will go.
It was therefore old news when ahead of Angola 2010, many did not give the Black Stars the slightest of chance. Yet, unlike Claude Leroy’s Black Stars, the Milovan Rajevac-led Black Stars has got something special about it. Even with all the criticisms and doubts, The Black Stars pushed to the finals of the tournament.
True to type, the average Ghanaian football fan will still not give Milovan and his boys the benefit of doubt ahead of the World Cup. Many were those who either completely forgot that Ghana went to South Africa 2010 as African Nations Cup finalists or completely discounted the opposition Ghana faced at the nations cup.
And of course the typical Ghanaian fan who will always wake up late to the reality that Ghana has a good team will behave as though she is the best fan there ever was. So with this awakening, the nation and the entire African continent and probably beyond will quickly forget about the star-studded Ivory Coast and the physically imposing Cameroun to throw their weight behind Ghana.
Word is that South Africa’s ruling ANC, President Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela have all requested audience with the team. Back home, the Minority Leader in Parliament is virtually pushing President Atta Mills, who is fast becoming the team’s pastor, to go back to South Africa and lead the Black Stars through another edifying prayer session.
Forget about the free-scoring Argentina and Germany or the resilient Brazil or the ever-moving-forward Spain, everybody believes Ghana is in contention to win the cup. Without deeper analysis, people keep throwing the emotional argument about – this is Africa’s World Cup and it must be won by an African country.
While all the attention comes with its own morale boosting benefits, one begins to wonder whether the players are not going to buckle under the pressure these great expectations come with. There is also the danger of the team basking in the attention it is receiving, get complacent and forget to take one game after the other.
Uruguay is next. They have lined up a 4-3-1-2 formation with Suarez and Forlan as the marksmen. We are yet to know whether Rajevac will bring his usual 4-2-3-1 or his new found 3-2-2-2-1. Whatever it is, one can expect a difficult match which will be fought in the midfield and won not only by the brilliance of the players on the pitch, but by the tactical sharpness of the coaches.
I call this match for Ghana. Uruguay will come attacking; taking the game to the Ghanaians and threatening to score several times, but in the end, there is something special about this Ghanaian team which cannot be undone by the Uruguayans.
Suppose Ghana does not burn out from all the expectations, and assume goalkeeper Richard Kingson turns on his best game, I can predict that Ghana’s Black Stars will give Africa an unforgettable Friday night.