Ghana 2006: One card too far
A win for Ghana today over Australia should assure they progress
to the second round. As part of our Saga Africa history series, we look back to the World Cup 2006 when they made
a fine run in Germany.
In Germany in 2006, Africa was represented by Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and ?Tunisia. Driven by a new generation of ambitious players and led by Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic, all but four of Ghana’s players were overseas-based. Foremost among the Black Stars as they faced their first World Cup final was Stephen Appiah (Fenerbahçe, Turkey).?
Things got off to a lacklustre start with a 2-0 defeat against future World Cup winners Italy. In the next group match they regained their confidence thanks to a fine performance by Sulley Muntari that gave them victory (2-0) against the solid Czech Republic. Man of the match, Michael Essien saw the victory as a key moment. “I am delighted we’ve achieved our first World Cup win and scored twice. It’s an important victory for African football. Petr Cech, the Czech goalkeeper who is my club mate, was great, as I told him after the match. But we never had any worries, even before kick-off.”?
Ghana’s qualification to the knock-out stage depended on the nailbiting third match against the United States. A penalty taken by Appiah decided it (2-1) and Ghana were through.?
Then the luck ran out. Essien – nicknamed “the Bison” for his vigorous play and efficient tackles – was suspended from the next match for having picked up two yellow cards, one against the Czech Republic and another against the US. A cornerstone of the Chelsea side that had romped to the top of the English premiership, this was a cruel blow for the Ghana team.?
Deprived of one of their strongest assets, the Black Stars headed to Dortmund to take on giants ?Brazil in the last 16. Even though the South Americans had been underwhelming in the tournament thus far, they outplayed the ?Ghanaians, who were weakened in the midfield and exhausted.
Ronaldo and Adriano scored in the first half, Zé Roberto in the second, and Brazil were through to the quarter-finals. Ghana’s tough afternoon in Dortmund had been instructive, if punishing.
At least the Black Stars were able to leave Germany safe in the knowledge that the 2010 World Cup is being played on African ‘home’ soil.
The learning process of taking a team through to the second round has instilled a sense of aspiration into the Ghanaian footballing mindset that has filtered down to the next generation.
The successful young team ?fielded in this year’s ACN is proof that the Black Stars now see themselves alongside the very best.