It was going to be a baptism of fire at the world cup for a team considered the Brazilians of African football. Ghana was going to play in the world cup for the first time at the Germany 2006 edition. The draw was held on the 9th December, 2005 in Germany. Some of the Ghanaian players expressed satisfaction with the fact that they were going to start a world cup journey with Italy, a
country they were familiar with without recourse to the Azzuris having won the world cup three times then. Stephen Appiah, Sammy Osei Kuffour and John Mensah were some of the players who were quite content with our group – Group E – with
Italy, Czech Republic and the United States of America. Well, before that world cup, my prediction was that Ghana will draw with Italy, will be beaten by Czech Republic but will manage a win over USA. That prediction was borne out of the fact that the players were confident with their first clash as they have been playing with most of the Italian players in the Serie A and that a draw was
possible as a win over Italy was going to be an onerous task. The prediction for my second match was borne out of the fact that Czech republic were ranked number two in the world then and had placed second in the European championships two years before the world cup. In fact, they were then one of the dreaded footballing nations in the world. Ghana-USA was going to be life-and-death for the Black Stars and in matches like that I trust the players to deliver. I got the prediction for the last match right as Ghana won over the USA 2-1 with all three goals coming in the first half. Before that match, Ghana had been beaten 2-0 by Italy but pulled a surprise 2-0 win over Czech Republic defying my predictions. I always bruit about that but for technical bankruptcy or should I say inexperience on the part of our players, the Black Stars would have whitewashed the Czechs. All the same, Ghana bagged the three points. On the other hand, USA had lost 3-0 to Czech Republic in their first match and had secured a 1-1 draw with Italy in one of the fiercely contested matches of the 2006 World Cup. As a result, USA took the final Group E match as seriously as Ghana did.
Arrogance of Uncle Sam
USA had performed creditably in the previous world cup in South Korea reaching the quarter-finals and were seeking to do better or at the least equal that feat. So, a second round match at the 2006 world cup with a debutante African nation was going to be a cinch. Reportage on CNN even showed a part of Ghana where fans were “watching the world cup under trees” and Americans vaunted that a country without electricity to watch live matches can never beat USA. What arrogance of Uncle Sam!! Well, it turned out that Haminu Draman and Stephen Appiah scored for Ghana while Clint Dempsey connected to a pin-point curly cross from DaMarcus Beasley to beat Richard Olele Kingson. I will never forget Dempsey’s dance in celebrating that goal. The match brought to an end USA’s hopes in that world cup. Ghana, who were playing in the world cup for the first time, defied the bookmakers to qualify from the group alongside eventual winners Italy. As if USA’s exit was enough, the Ghana-USA match was the last world cup match for Bruce Arena, the then USA coach. I am sure he would think of Ghana with heavy heart any time he thinks of his career in the world cup. On another hand, he quite admired the West Africans as his name popped out as one of the applicants for the vacant position left by Milovan Rajevac last year. Bruce Arena is now doing well with LA Galaxy in the Major League Soccer. His place was given to Bob Bradley in 2006.
Last for Bradley
Bob Bradley, perhaps, took over from Arena with the aim of at least getting to the finals of the next world cup in South Africa. His laid-out plans worked perfectly as he led the Stars and Stripes to a second-place finish at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. On the way to the finals, they ended the long unbeaten run of Spain. Hopes were high for the Americans when the world cup began in
June, 2010. USA drew 1-1 with England after Clint Dempsey took over from where he left off in 2006; scoring in USA’s first match in the 2010 world cup. His shot went through the hands of Robert Green to the chagrin of most English fans.
They drew 2-2 again with Sovenia but secured a last-minute winner in their final group game with Algeria. That sent them face-to-face with the team that more or less eliminated them from the previous edition in Germany. It was one of the tension-packed second-round matches at the 2010 World Cup. It drew Ghana’s president Professor John Evans Atta Mills and USA’s former president Bill Clinton to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg. The Americans forced the match into an extra time after Landon Donovan had cancelled a Kevin-Prince Boateng fifth minute goal. Donovan scored from the spot. Asamoah Gyan scored
just two minutes into extra time to nail the Americans. USA went out of the world cup again to Ghana. Bob Bradley’s men could not keep away their tears. Apparently, the match became the last for Bob Bradley in the world cup at least for now. Bradley had handled the team for over a year since their exit from the world cup. He had hoped to take the team to the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
Unfortunately, he was rid of the position on the 28th July, 2011 and Jurgen Klinsmann was named to replace him. Klinsmann’s task is to qualify USA to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but a clue he will be given secretly in Brazil is to beat Ghana or lose his job if USA meets Ghana. The results between the two countries when they meet at the world cup have not augured well for coaches
of the USA. Therefore, Jurgen Klinsmann will not take kindly at all a fixture between the Black Stars and USA in case they meet at the 2014 World Cup.