Ghana stands in US’ path at World Cup... again

Four years after sending the US crashing out of the Fifa World Cup

in Germany, Ghana’s Black Stars again block the Americans’ path and are the only

African team so far into the knockout rounds.

Ivory Coast is another hope for the continent. The Elephants

entertain North Korea today at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

Kick-off is at 4pm.

Former US president Bill Clinton is among the American supporters

who will make his way to this rural farm town for Saturday’s match after

watching Landon Donovan score in stoppage time for a 1-0 US victory over the

disappointing Algeria to advance.

“Hands down, this is the biggest moment in my career. That’s

something I will have embedded in my mind forever,” Donovan said. “I’m so proud

of our guys. We kept going and we believed. We’re alive and we’re not done

yet.

“My guess is Saturday is going to be a pretty cool occasion for our

country.”

Moments from a repeat of 2006’s disappointment, the Americans

continued a thrill-ride run that has them ranked atop their Group C with dreams

of matching the 1930 US semifinal run from a World Cup with only 13 teams.

The Americans rallied to draw England 1-1, came back from two goals

down to draw Slovenia 2-2 with a disallowed winning goal and shook off another

controversial no-goal referee call to solve Algeria at the death to

advance.

“We’re like the ‘Cardiac Kids’ at the moment,” US goalkeeper Tim

Howard said. “That emotion, that passion is what American sports fans thrive

on.”

Several US players have said that the memory of the 2006 flop is in

the back of their minds, an exit caused by a 2-1 loss to Ghana in the 2006 group

stage. Donovan in particular was ripped for the failure but has moved past it

now.

“That was not a good day for me or the team,” Donovan said. “What I

remember most is my tentativeness and after that was the finality of it

all.

“I’ve already put that behind me. This is the chance to do

something special.”

Ghana’s Black Stars, however, are ready to spoil the US show once

again.

“From the beginning of the tournament, we were all dreaming to go

to the semifinals and now we have a big chance to do it,” said Ghana defender

Hans Sarpei, who plays for Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen.

“Now anything can happen. We are playing very well. We can beat

anybody.”

South Korea or Uruguay awaits the US-Ghana winner instead of

once-possible powerhouse foes as Germany or Argentina.

US captain Carlos Bocanegra, who calls the Americans “heart

attack-esque” for their tendency to play their best when pushed to the edge,

knows how dangerous Ghana are.

“It’s going to be a difficult game,” Bocanegra said. “They have

some players who are capable of scoring goals. They are an athletic side. You

never count them out.”

Bocanegra knows well the skills of Ghana star Asamoah Gyan, his

teammate at French club Rennes.

“He’s an athletic player,” Bocanegra said. “He has got a great

jump. He’s great in the air. He’s a pretty explosive player.”

Gyan says his team is on the right path despite his two penalty

kicks being the only World Cup goals for the Black Stars.

“The Americans are a very good team. They expend a lot of energy

and are strong physically,” Gyan said. “But we too have good players. It is for

that that we have so much self-confidence.”

Ghana defender John Pantsil, who is a Fulham teammate of US

midfielder Clint Dempsey, warns his Black Stars will be more dangerous

now.

“We are going to correct our mistakes and speak to our strikers so

that they can be more effective,” said Pantsil. “We believe in ourselves and we

are going to score more goals.”



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