Ghana trying to make history
By Sports Network
Ghana's Kwadwo Asamoah controls the ball during a training session at Mogwase stadium near Rustenburg on June 28, 2010. (MARCOS BRINDICCI/Reuters)
JOHANNESBURG - Ghana will be trying to make history at Ellis Park Stadium on Friday when it squares off with Uruguay in a FIFA World Cup quarterfinal match.
A win for the Black Stars would not only put them through to the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time in their history, but it would also mark the first time an African nation has reached the last four of the competition.
A lot has been made about the first World Cup to be played in Africa, and while the rest of the African nations have, for the most part, underachieved, Ghana continues to carry the banner for the continent.
Cameroon struck a big blow in 1990 for Africa when it became the first African nation to reach the quarterfinals, but Ghana is trying to take things one step further, while also looking to build on its first-ever appearance in the round of 16 at the World Cup, which came in 2006.
But manager Milovan Rajevac does not think that his team will change too much with the mounting pressure and that they will just continue to do what has gotten them to this point.
"We will play the way that has brought us success so far," the manager said. "We are not going to adjust our style and we will try to use whatever weakness we can find in our opponents."
"The unity of the team is the most important quality we have. We just take one match at a time and try to do our best. Of course, sometimes you feel a little pressure. This is the highest level there is but we just try to do our best every match."
It is a simple approach to take, but it also is made easier when players like striker Asamoah Gyan and midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng are playing at their best.
Gyan has scored three of Ghana's four goals in this World Cup, including the winner in extra time of the team's 2-1 win over the United States in the round of 16.
He has been the danger man for the Black Stars throughout the tournament, and along with Boateng, who scored Ghana's other goal, they will need to continue their high level of play to get past Uruguay.
The South American side won two of the first four World Cups ever played, but they have since fallen well off the radar of soccer powers.
The last time Uruguay advanced beyond the round of 16 prior to this tournament was 1970, when they were knocked out by Brazil in the semifinals.
That same scenario would play out again if both Uruguay and Brazil win their respective quarterfinals, but manager Oscar Tabarez and his team must first turn their attention to Ghana.
While Ghana's duo of Gyan and Boateng have been instrumental in their success, Uruguay has an even more potent combination in attack with Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.
Forlan scored twice in Uruguay's 3-0 win over South Africa in the group stage, but it has been the play of Suarez that has been most impressive.
After scoring once in three group matches, the Ajax man tallied both goals in a 2-1 win over South Korea in the last round, including a fantastic winning goal 10 minutes from time to break a 1-1 deadlock.
Uruguay has been even more impressive defensively, allowing just one goal in its first four games, and it will need to continue that kind of performance to reach the last four and satisfy the high expectations of their fans back home.
"Before we began this World Cup, we saw this great harmony among the players," Tabarez said, and I told them, "'The people back home have aspirations, they have dreams and we have to deliver them.'"