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African hopes rest on Ghana’s shoulders

By Ponga Liwewe in Johannesburg
Posted on Saturday, 26 June 2010 09:35

The Black Stars are the only African team through to the World Cup’s second round in what has been a disappointing display of African football.

The sorry state of African football has been brought into the spotlight after five of the continent’s six world cup teams were eliminated at the first hurdle in South Africa.

The tournament was touted as ‘Africa’s World Cup’ and the expectations were that this would be the platform for an African team to reach a level of success never before achieved. When the guns stopped blazing, only Ghana’s Black Stars remained standing with South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Nigeria and Algeria all slain by European, Asian and South American opposition.

Côte d’Ivoire came to the tournament knowing that a group that included Brazil and Portugal was never going to be easy. They had opportunities in their first match against the Portuguese but let them off the hook and drew 1-1 in a match that was there for the taking. By the time they played their final group match they faced the unenviable task of needing to score nine goals against North Korea. They were only able to reach a third of that total in a meaningless 3-0 win.

The host team South Africa, despite victory over a dispirited French team wracked by internal division, showed their true level in the earlier match against Uruguay when Diego Forlan’s inspired team took them apart in a comprehensive 3-0 defeat that briefly provided respite from the incessant buzz of the vuvuzelas that have drowned out the crowds at this world cup. Bafana Bafana’s exit saw them make history as they became the first tournament host to bow out in the first round.

Nigeria twice took the lead against both Greece and South Korea but were unable to hold on and eventually bowed out of the competition with a single point. Not even $1m dollars offered by a Nigerian businessman to beat Argentina could raise them from their slumber.

Algeria lost to lowly Slovenia but then had a brief spell of hope with a subsequent draw against England. Needing a win in their final game against the USA, they instead conceded late in the match and exited with a single goal in three matches to their name.

Cameroon, previous flag-bearers of African hopes, were supposedly the African team with the best hope of qualifying in a group alongside the Netherlands, Japan and Denmark, with the Dutch side considered the only real threat. They departed without a single point to show for their endeavours.

Africa’s hopes now rest on the shoulders of Ghana who have made the second round despite only scoring twice, both goals coming from the penalty spot against Serbia and Australia.

Their second round match against the USA offers them the chance to redeem some African pride by equaling the achievements of Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002.

If they can overcome their inhibitions in front of goal they have the potential to get to the last eight stage and then begin to contemplate raising the African bar to previously unreached heights.