The Underdogs – Senegal 2002
Pride – Nigeria 1994
INSPIRATION: Cameroon trailblazers of 1990
Unity – South Africa 2010
Controversy – Ghana 2010
Africa had a record number of finalists at the 2010 World Cup with South Africa hosting the tournament and five other countries flying the flag for the continent, offering high hopes of a real breakthrough for the continent’s football.
Disappointingly the host nation did not make it past the first round and hopes of a major African impact came crashing down as Algeria, Cameroon and Nigeria all failed to win a match while the Ivory Coast missed out by a point in a difficult group, behind Brazil and Portugal.
It left Ghana to not only fly the continent’s flag but carry the hopes of all the home fans too as they were the only one of the six to make it past the first round.
Coached by the unknown Serbian Milovan Rajevac, whose communication skills looked limited and who had a translator permanently at his side, Ghana got off to a perfect start in Group D, beating Serbia in their opening game at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria courtesy of a late Asamoah Gyan penalty.
They need another penalty in their second group game against Australia at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace for a share of the spoils as Gyan was successful from the spot again. The 1-1 draw advanced the Black Stars to four points and top place in the group and it meant they could afford defeat in their last group game against Germany at Soccer City and still advance.
It was not the most convincing qualification — on the back of two spotkicks — but the sense that Ghana could go on and achieve something was founded on the back of strong attacking performances from the likes of Kwadwo Asamoah, Dede Ayew and Gyan. In defence, John Mensah captained the team with a formidable leadership quality while the veteran Stephen Appiah was also proving a positive impact off the bench.
Plus, Ghana now had the backing of the home nation’s fans as Ghana took over a South Africa’s favourite team, being dubbed ‘Baghana Baghana’.
The Black Stars came alive at Royal Bafokeng in their second-round game against the United States, who they had also beaten in their maiden World Cup finals appearance in Germany in 2006.
Kevin-Prince Boateng’s early left footed goal had the Ghana in front for the first half hour before Landon Donovan equalised from the spot. It forced the game into extra time where Gyan score his third of the tournament, this time not from the spot but with a rasping left footed shot to hand Ghana victory in extra time.
Uruguay were next at Soccer City in the quarter-finals and in arguably the most infamous game in African football history. Sulley Muntari put Ghana ahead before Diego Forlan eqzlied and the game move to the brink of extra time full time.
Ghana sent a free kick into the penalty area; Luis Suárez blocked Stephen Appiah’s shot on the goal line but the from Dominic Adiyiah was heading into the back, but Suárez blatantly blocked the shot with his hand to save what would have been the winner.
Gyan then had the chance to convert the resultant penalty and put Ghana into the semis but hit the crossbar in what has gone down as one of the great tragedies of the African game. Uruguay went onto win on in the post-match shootout with Africa left to ponder what might have been.