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FIFA World Cup: Ghana become the toast of Africa; knock out USA 2-1

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asamoah_gyan.jpgThe first African World Cup got its share of local joy and ecstasy today as Ghana came out trumps against the USA in the second round of 16 clash on Saturday. An early goal from Kevin-Prince Boateng gave Ghana the lead as the African side ran the show in the opening half hour. USA came back strongly in the second half and Landon Donovan converted a spot kick around the hour mark to bring parity to the score. However, the fear of losing dawned on both teams as they struggled to take the initiative and create chances in front of  goal.

Extra time heralded an early goal from Asamoah Gyan as the Ghanaians went berserk. The US for once didn't make a comeback as Ghana made history, reaching the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup for the first time ever and becoming only the third African nation to ever do so. The Ghanaians are now up against a very strong Uruguayan side, but that is a problem for another day, as tonight is all about celebrating their greatest ever triumph.

The Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg hosted the second match of the last 16 as the USA took on the lone African survivors in the competition, Ghana. The duo locked horns today in a bid to play against the Uruguayans in the quarter final stage on Friday, July 2nd. The USA were being billed as the favourites for this particular encounter - their impressive comeback against Slovenia and their last ditch heroics against Algeria marking them the team with the momentum coming into today's match. The African side on the other hand, hadn't managed a goal from open play so far and were therefore more than a bit fortuitous to make their way into the last 16

The USA made two changes to their team which got the injury time winner against Algeria - Ricardo Clark and Robbie Findley replacing Maurice Edu and Herculez Gomez. Ghana meanwhile, made just the one change, to the side that lost to Germany in the last group encounter, with Samuel Inkoom coming in for Prince Tagoe. With the Americans promising to continue with their enterprising nature and attack the Africans at every opportunity, the match seemed set to be a rousing spectacle.

The match was off to the perfect start for the lone African team left in the tournament. Kevin-Prince Boateng gave Ghana the lead as early as the 5th minute with an unchecked run from the midfield. The Portsmouth man ran unabated and unchallenged and then capped his endeavour with a low drilled left footed shot that beat Tim Howard at his near post. The opening minutes belonged to the Ghanaians as USA struggled to get their feet to the ball as the Africans had most of the possession and made good use of it too. Asamoah Gyan fired a good free kick in the 17th minute straight at Tim Howard, but the American keeper in a melee of bodies in the box manage to punch it clear.

The Ghanaians were as effective at the back as they were in front. They were first to the 50-50 challenges and gave the USA's players little time to dwell on the ball. The USA coaching staff didn't wait long before making their first substitution on the half hour mark - Maurice Edu coming on for an ineffective Ricardo Clark. The Americans got their chance to equalize in the 34th minute but Robbie Findley's ineptitude in front of the goal showed once again in the tournament when he shot straight at Kingson in the Ghanaian goal after being put through by Landon Donovan. 2 minutes later Asamoah got a good left footed shot away at goal from a tight angle; Tim Howard though was prepared for it this time round and made a smart save to his right. Half time came soon after with the Americans in familiar territory in this World Cup - they had to come from behind to keep their hopes alive in the competition.

The second half started with the Americans denied by an excellent save from Richard Kingson in the 46th minute. Feilhaber's effort was adroitly dealt by Ghana's player of the tournament so far (their keeper - Richard Kingson), as the African nation survived the worst possible start to the half. USA had definitely started in the ascendancy and were threatening to draw level. Donovan was spraying some good balls into the box and of one such neat delivery fell to Jozy Altidore, but he failed to get the finishing touch by a matter of inches. Ghana's overtly defensive approach cost them dear when Jonathan Mensah hauled down Clint Dempsey inside the box. Landon Donovan then converted the resultant spot kick - with the aid the inside of the post - to mark yet another comeback from the Americans.

The game was now set up quite nicely with both teams looking to get the winner in normal time. This was no Group stage match and the teams had to take some risks to get a positive result or take the next flight home. The Ghanaians seemed to stutter as they lost their shape on quite a few occasions; however, the Americans failed to take advantage. Michael Bradley missed a glorious chance to put the USA ahead for the first time in this match when he got on the end of a wonderful passing move but lacked the composure to slot the ball into the back of the net. Then 4 minutes later, the profligate Altidore missed another gilt edged opportunity after hooking the ball wide when through on goal - a costly miss indeed. With 10 minutes to go, the two sides suddenly realized the enormity of one mistake as they put men behind the ball and defended deep. Inevitably, extra time followed.

The Ghanaians started the first period of extra time in identical fashion to the first half as Asamoah Gyan headed them into the lead in the just the 93rd minute. The talismanic Ghanaian forward showed immense physical strength to hold off his Carlos Bocanegra and then finished a looping bunt forward from Andre Ayew with aplomb. The Americans didn't have time to sink their heads and looked for an immediate riposte. Feilhaber came close to bundling one in, in the 95th minute as the USA piled on the pressure. However, that was the last bit of any notable action in the first period of extra time. USA looked like a tired bunch as the fit and powerful Ghanaians jostled with them for every inch of the turf.

The Second half started with the Americans surprisingly pedestrian and unable to get forward in numbers. Credit should also be given to the African team for pressing their American counterparts all over the pitch. USA got closest to the goal in the 119th minute when a Feilhaber's goal mouth effort was blocked by some last ditch defending from the Africans. The final whistle blew soon after as the USA got eliminated against the unfancied Ghanians.flying_the_ghana_flag.jpg

The Americans had started the campaign on a bright note - drawing 1-1 against England in a closely fought encounter - and despite them starting as favourites for today's match; Ghana deserved to be the victors on the balance of play. Incidentally, it was USA's third straight loss by a one goal margin in the World Cup knock-out stage, and it is back to the drawing board for them.

For Ghana, Uruguay awaits them in July, and you can be sure the Black Stars will be ready to battle for glory as they attempt to go where no African has gone before!

Teams:

USA: Howard, Bornstein, DeMerit, Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Clark (Edu 31'), Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, Findley (Feilhaber 45'), Altidore (Gomez 90')

Ghana: Kingson, John Mensah, Jonathan Mensah, Sarpei (Addy 73'), Pantsil, Boateng (Appiah 78'), Annan, Gyan, Asamoah, Ayew, Inkoom (Muntari 113')

Scoreline: USA 1-2 Ghana
Boateng (Ghana) 5'
Donovan (USA) 61' pen
Gyan (Ghana) 93'

Also Read: Uruguay 2 - 1 South Korea (Match Report)

Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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