Ghana tackles US for quarter-final berth

Today’s match is the Black Star’s second attempt in the group phase of the most glamorous soccer showpiece, having reached the same stage in the last edition held in Germany four years ago.

Ghana’s victory today would provide great relief to the African continent, whose other five candidates in the Campaign have crashed, casting doubt over the continent’s desire to have a team in the semi-final of the quadrennial soccer event.

But the Barack Obama men, who are gradually warming themselves into the competition, after a slow start, will not take the match lightly, having tested the might of Africa in their game against Algeria.

There is always a mixed report on how endearing the sport of football is in the USA. Some observers suggest that the game is not growing as much as one would have wanted it to, while others believe that the popularity of soccer in America is rising.

Whatever the truth may be, it cannot be denied that the Stars and Stripes’ dramatic last minute win against Algeria in the group stage was taken in by all football followers back home and that indeed there is an interest in how the US perform in the remainder of the World Cup.

For a nation that doesn’t have a massive footballing pedigree, finishing above former world champions England in the group stage is an achievement in itself. The USA drew with Fabio Capello’s side in their opening game in Group C, came from 2-0 down to hold Slovenia to a 2-2 draw and scored a last minute winner against Algeria to finish above England in pole position in the group. As a matter of fact, Bob Bradley’s side could have even done better point-wise had they not had a goal disallowed against Slovenia.

The USA reached the final of the Confederations Cup in 2009 by defeating Spain in the semis and indeed they will be looking to go on a similar run. The Americans have shown marvellous spirit and gusto in the World Cup so far. They reached the quarter-finals eight years ago in the 2002 World Cup, but four years back in Germany they were ousted from the group stage by Ghana, who defeated them in the final group game and progressed to the second round.

This is the first that the World Cup has been held on African soil but most of the African teams have been largely disappointing. However, Ghana have been the torchbearer for a football-mad continent and they will be carrying Africa’s hopes on Saturday evening too.

Ghana progressed from Group D as runners-up behind Germany but not before they had suffered some tense moments. Serbia Serbs lost their final match 2-1 to Australia but they could have progressed with one more goal – they had a late equaliser disallowed too.

In any case, Ghana did perform well in the group stages, defeating Serbia in their opening game of the campaign and drawing 1-1 with Australia in their second game. The Black Stars made their World Cup debut four years back in Germany and reached the last 16 and this time they will certainly be looking to go a step further and reach the quarter-finals.

Ghana will have the entire African continent cheering for them and, perhaps more importantly, will have the South Africans rooting for them too inside the stadium, which will certainly inject a healthy dose of confidence in them. Milovan Rajevac’s team will also try to emulate Cameroon and Senegal. The Indomitable Lions reached the last eight in the 1990 World Cup while Senegal featured in the quarter-finals in 2002.

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