Ghana lifts Africa's hopes, prayers
Version Française. After Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002, Ghana becomes just the third African team to qualify for the quarterfinals of the World cup. On June 26 Ghana leaped into the quarterfinals by defeating the USA in an all-or-nothing match for the second consecutive World Cup.
This first-ever World Cup in Africa also featured a record six African countries in the tournament, including Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, South Africa and Cameroon. And with this unprecedented success, the expectations for African football in 2010 World Cup had been building for months.
"The African teams are ready to win the World Cup," Eto' o Fils, Cameroon's team captain, told AFP, on June 7th of last year.
But by the end of the first round nearly all the African teams had disappointed their fans. Cameroon was first to be eliminated after just its second match. South Africa followed quickly, becoming the first World Cup host nation not to reach the knockout round. Nigeria then exited, along with Algeria who marked only one point. Ivory Coast fell to Brazil and Portugal, and could not qualify even with a 3-0 victory over North Korea.
Only the Black Stars of Ghana - the youngest team to qualify for this World Cup - survived, earning a second-place finish in Group D and a ticket to the round of 16.
And the African press was unanimous in recognizing it. L’Observateur de Paalga, a newspaper of Burkina-Faso, called Ghana the “Only hope for Africa".
Despite carrying the weight of a continent on its shoulders, Team Ghana did not disappoint: on Saturday, June 26th, 2010, the “little” Ghanaians - who were little in age only - proved themselves "great" by defeating a strong U.S. side. Final score 2-1 in favor of Ghana, after 30 minutes of extra time.
Ghana’s victory was celebrated through all Africa.
Headlines like “Ghana or the honor of a Continent", "Ghana in the High Court" and "The African pride" spread out on the front page of newspapers all through the continent.
"Ghana cut short the American dream," Sunday Independent, a South African newspaper proclaimed, on Sunday morning. “With the responsibility of representing a whole continent, on his shoulders, Ghana could not fail yesterday evening,” writes the newspaper.
On Sunday morning following the win, supporters turned out en masse in churches to thank God for this victory.
"It has been five years since I came to church, but today, I think that it is necessary to go there to thank God for his good work for Ghana and for all the African continent,” Accra primary school teacher Jerry Hodasi explained to AFP.
The Ghanaians’ victory was also welcomed by the South African political class. The party of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress (ANC), in power since the end of Apartheid in 1994, was the first one to thank Ghana for preserving "the image of the continent in this tournament. "
"Even though we organize the World Cup for all the participating teams, we are very happy that an African team is still there, and that Ghana carries very high the African flag..." Rich Mkhondo, the spokesman of the LOC (the World Cup Steering committee), told the AFP. "We wish good luck to them against the Uruguay."
Later today (July 2), Ghana will confront Uruguay in Johannesburg for the right to move on to the semi-finals.
"All the continent counts on us,” Jonathan Mensah, defender of Black stars affirmed. “Uruguay does not worry us. The United States did not worry us either. We beat them. The same thing is going to occur with Uruguay. "
For the moment, the whole Continent holds its breath and prays that this evening Ghana may continue to write this new chapter in the history of African football.