News / Africa

Ghana, Slovenia and Germany Win World Cup Openers

Argentine referee Hector Baldassi, left, gives a red card to Serbia's Aleksandar Lukovic during the World Cup group D soccer match between Serbia and Ghana at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010.
Argentine referee Hector Baldassi, left, gives a red card to Serbia's Aleksandar Lukovic during the World Cup group D soccer match between Serbia and Ghana at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010.
Sonny Young

Ghana and Slovenia both posted victories Sunday in their first matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup football tournament in South Africa.  

Asamoah Gyan scored Ghana's first World Cup goal at the 2006 tournament in Germany, where his team, nicknamed "The Black Stars," reached the second round in its debut at the soccer extravaganza.  Four years later, here in South Africa, Gyan again became the first Ghanaian to find the net in football's premier event.

In a tense encounter at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, Gyan converted a penalty kick in the 85th minute, to give Ghana a hard-fought 1-0 victory.  Gyan took the kick after a handball was called on Serbian midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic.  The Serbs played with 10 men from the 74th minute on, after central defender Aleksandar Lukovic was sent off for receiving his second yellow card.

It was a tough loss for Serbia, which next will play three-time World Cup champion Germany on Friday in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  Ghana becomes the first African team to win at this first World Cup on African soil.  "The Black Stars" will next play Australia on June 19th in Rustenburg, South Africa.

In Sunday's first World Cup match, played at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, South Africa, Slovenia edged 10-man Algeria, 1-0.  Slovenia's team captain, Robert Koren, hit a long-range shot that Algeria goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi misjudged, and allowed to bounce into the net off his arm in the 79th minute.  It was the first World Cup victory for Slovenia, the smallest country in the tournament with a population of about two-million people.  

Algerian substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal was sent off in the 72nd minute.  He picked up a second yellow card for handling the ball inside the Slovenian penalty area.

Algeria's veteran coach, Rabah Saadane, said Chaouchi apologized to the team for failing to track Koren's match-winning shot.  But the coach added that it is difficult to predict the trajectory of the new Adidas-made World Cup ball, which has been criticized by other World Cup coaches and players for its movement in flight.

Algeria will next play England June 18th in Cape Town, South Africa, while that same day, Slovenia will face the United States in Johannesburg.

In the late Group-D match Sunday, Germany dominated Australia, 4-0 in Durban.

Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose scored in the opening half, while Thomas Mueller and Cacau tallied in the second half after Australia's Tim Cahill received a red card for a late challenge.

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