Black Stars shine at World Cup
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
JOHANNESBURG -- It will never be truer than Friday night:
Ghana will have an entire continent behind it when it meets Uruguay in a World Cup quarterfinal.
The Black Stars saved the continent of Africa from getting shut out in the second round of World Cup play. They then went one step farther and became only the third African team to make it as far as the quarterfinals with a win over the United States.
Now South Africa will pay the Black Stars back for their success, filling the stadium to back "their team." Before the World Cup began, Africa had great hopes that several of their six teams would move on and make a real impact in the World Cup.
Instead five of the six teams didn't make it past the group stage. Ghana restored faith in African football. The vuvuzelas will now be blowing for Ghana.
Support is one thing but Ghana needs to produce on the pitch if they want to advance. So far it has done it, even missing top player Michael Essien.
While Uruguay is two-time world champions, Ghana is one African team here that has shown it can defend well, which is vital as well as attack.
The Black Stars have grown in confidence as the tournament has progressed. Richard Kingson has given them good goaltending and Asamoah Gyan has scored. They will be a handful especially if they stay in the game.
But with all that support comes pressure. Most of the questions they face are about carrying the hopes of an African nation on their backs.
"We understand and we will be ready. We must fully concentrate," said Black Stars' defender John Paintsil who relishes having the support of all of Africa.
But Uruguay has made its own form of history. It too has been a revelation in this tournament and the Uruguayans see a real chance to make it to the semifinals. It's the first time they have made it this far in 40 years.
Uruguay has always been solid defensively and it is no different this time around. But with the pair of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez cavorting in the attack zone, Ghana will be sorely tested.
Forlan has always been a terrific player but after a bad stint in the English League with Manchester United, many suspected he was done. His move to La Liga in Spain with Atletico Madrid revitalized his career. He scored twice in the Europa League final to help his team to the trophy and has scored twice in the World Cup.
"I was very happy (at Manchester United,)" Forlan said. "The only thing is I wasn't playing, but I had a great time there. I left because I wanted to play regularly. That was the only reason I left."
He was popular with his teammates and the fans. Right now, every Uruguay player is popular with the fans. Fans in Uruguay believe their team has a chance to reprieve the 1930 and 1950 World Cup wins.
The truth is a little less glamourous.
Uruguay remains a long shot behind Brazil, Argentina, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany. That said, despite the support Ghana will bring to Soccer City, Uruguay has a great chance to advance to the semifinals and a potential meeting with Brazil. Brazil will be heavily favoured.
Just as they were in 1950 with 199,954 looking on at Maracana Stadium, Uruguay stunned Brazil 2-1 to finish at the top of the final group, giving them the Jules Rimet Trophy as world champions.