Not many African nations can boast about their fortunes at the international stage as much as Ghana can.
Eight years ago this summer, the nation of South Africa took centre stage as the world glared for the biggest footballing tournament on the globe and one country had 28 million people in anticipation to cause an upset.
Ghana, appearing at just their second World Cup having appeared at the previous edition of the competition in Germany, were one of six nations from the continent of Africa to qualify for the tournament; alongside the likes of fierce rivals Nigeria and the hosts.
SPIRIT IN CAMP
A squad that only provided a handful of recognisable names as Kevin-Prince Boateng of Portsmouth was the most high-calibre Ghanaian in the camp, although it would be forward Asamoah Gyan who would grab all the headlines in the summer of 2010.
The only other Premier League faces to head to South Africa as part of the lucky 23-man Black Stars team were Fulham’s Richard Kingson and John Paintsil, as well as Sunderland defender John Mensah – who was on loan at the Stadium of Light.
THE ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
Drawn in an incredibly narrow group with Libya, Gabon and Lesotho; it provided to be one of the tightest qualifiers in recent years with goal difference being the single decider as to who made it through to the final 32-country tournament.
The Black Stars’ reliable attacker Matthew Amoah netted five goals, the same number as Emmanuel Adebayor of Togo and one less than Didier Drogba tallied for geographical neighbours Côte d’Ivoire, in a group that saw Ghana finish with twelve points – the exact same as Gabon and Libya – only a single goal ensured they progressed to the next stage of qualifying as toppers and the former ending up as runners-up.
This time around manager Milovan Rajevac had to guide his players past Benin, Mali and Sudan, doing so with ease as thirteen points saw the Black Stars book their spot on that plane to Johannesburg.
SUAREZ PROVES TO BE THE VILLAIN FOR A NATION
When it came to the actual, breathtaking tournament, not many were expecting to see the African nation make it as far as they did. The first hurdle provided to be the group stage where they’d have to overcome a ferocious Germany as well as Serbia and Australia.
A late penalty courtesy of Asamoah Gyan against the Eagles guided the Black Stars to their first three points of the tournament, but six days later Ghana could only manage a disappointing draw to the Socceroosbefore a narrow defeat to the Germans to end the group; a result which many Ghanaians would be joyful of as the country safeguarded a round of sixteen knockout fixture against the United States of America.
Ghana were in jubilation after a measly five minutes as Kevin-Prince Boateng found the back of the net but Landon Donovan’s second-half equaliser meant the game would be forced to extra-time. Asamoah Gyan, Milovan Rajevac’s only goalscorer of the tournament up to this point, found the goal that secured his country’s spot in the World Cup 2010 quarter-finals – an achievement that stunned an entire population of 28 million.
However, controversy would now play a major as Ghana met Uruguayin Johannesburg, the first competitive fixture between these two nations Sulley Muntari’s opener was cancelled out by Diego Forlán’sgoal. After 120 minutes of action-packed football, the game was heading to a penalty shootout before the largest dispute of the competition occurred.
Dominic Adiyiah found himself, quite comfortably, on the rebound of a blocked Stephen Appiah shot, but Uruguay striker Luis Suárezappeared to handle the ball that was blatantly going to ensure Ghana’s route to the semi-final. The Ajax player was sent off but hero Gyan smashed the resulting penalty off the crossbar, and Uruguay went onto triumph in the shootout.
One individual may have broken the seemingly unstoppable road for Ghana but a country ranked the second lowest of the qualifying African nations defied the odds, thanks to spirit and togetherness, and made sure they went home in high spirits.