Ghana defeated the United States Saturday evening, two-one, in extra time, to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup football tournament in South Africa.
In a tense, thrilling match played before almost 35,000 fans here, "The Black Stars" of Ghana advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in the team's history. In the process, Ghana became the third African team to reach the final eight of football's premier event, following Senegal in 2002 and Cameroon in 1990.
Ghana took an early one-nil lead when Kevin Prince Boateng beat U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard at the near post with a low shot in the fifth minute. The Americans picked up their attack in the second half, and in the 62nd minute, one of their top strikers, Clint Dempsey, was fouled in the penalty area by Ghana's Jonathan Mensah. Landon Donovan, the USA's all-time leading scorer, stepped up and converted the penalty kick. The teams ended 90 minutes of regulation tied at one-all.
Early in the 30-minute extra time period, Ghana's top striker, Asamoah Gyan, collected a deep pass from Andre "Dede" Ayew, the son of three-time African Footballer of the Year Abedi Pele. Gyan beat American defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit, and then hooked a left-footed shot into the roof of the net. It was Gyan's third goal at this World Cup. The USA fought desperately for an equalizer, which would have forced a penalty kick shootout, but with the crowd on its feet, the final whistle blew. Ayew was named the Man of the Match. He said it was a victory not just for Ghana, but for all of Africa.
"Me and my colleagues, we were very disappointed that there were no other African teams with us (in the Round of 16)," Ayew said. "We really wanted a lot of African teams in this competition to do something for the whole continent. And now that we are lucky to be here, I think we need to fight for not only ourselves, but for all the other African teams, too, that left us. And I think it's great, because I'm 100-percent sure that they are behind praying for us. So, we need to make the whole continent proud. And yes, we feel like we have a continent behind us, we have Africa behind us, and that has given us a lot of energy to fight more."
This marks the second consecutive World Cup that Ghana has eliminated the USA. "The Black Stars" beat the Americans by the same two-one scoreline in the first round at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. After losing to the Ghanaians here in Rustenburg, U-S-A coach Bob Bradley praised the African squad and their Serbian coach.
"Ghana is a talented team, and I think their coach Milovan Rajevac has done a good job organizing the team," Bradley said. "Of course, they'll have a tough game against Uruguay, but they're a team that's capable of moving on."
As Coach Bradley mentioned, Ghana will play Uruguay in the quarterfinals. That game will be played July second at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. Uruguay beat South Korea, 2-1, in an earlier match on Saturday in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Luis Suarez had both goals for Uruguay, which is through to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 40 years. This marked the sixth and final World Cup match here at Royal Bafokeng Stadium, which was named after the Bafokeng people, who own shares in the platinum mines in the area. The stadium has a seating capacity of almost 39-thousand, making it the smallest of the 10 World Cup venues.