Ghana keeps Africa flag flying

2010-06-24 06:56
Ghana's John Pantsil, right, and Dede Ayew celebrate advancing to the second round. (AP)

Johannesburg - Ghana managed to keep the African flag flying at the World Cup on Wednesday as they scraped through to the second round and halted a string of failures by the continent's teams on home soil.

The day after South Africa and Nigeria bowed out of the tournament, Algeria followed them to the exit door after losing to the United States in the dying seconds of their match on Wednesday.

But the Black Stars of Ghana managed to prevent ignominy for Africa in the first tournament staged on the continent by limiting three-times world champions Germany to a 1-0 victory in Johannesburg's Soccer City.

Australia beat Serbia 2-1 in the other Group D game, a result which enabled Ghana to stagger into second place in Group D and thus line up a showdown with the United States.

With Ivory Coast requiring an avalanche of goals in their final match to stay in contention, the continent's only realistic hope had lain with Ghana.

Failure would have meant Africa had no representatives in the second round for the first time since 1982. A record six teams from the continent took part this time in what is the first tournament to be held on African soil.

Ahead of the game, South African papers had pinned their hopes on the Black Stars with the headline in The Star, a Johannesburg-based daily, urging: "Ghana, Do It For Africa."

The same paper had urged South Africa not to allow the disappointment at their own team's exit on Tuesday to become overwhelming and to keep blowing their ear-splitting trumpets.

"The vuvuzelas might lose some of their oomph from today, but we must immediately assume our rightful role -- as warm and wonderful hosts," said the newspaper in an editorial.

Nokuphila Khumalo, who had watched in a Johannesburg fan park as South Africa secured a gallant but ultimately meaningless 2-1 victory over France on Tuesday, acknowledged the volume of support would come down a notch.

"This is the last time you'll hear the vuvuzela. But the spirit will go on because South Africans are going to choose other countries," said Khumalo.

Rather than nail her colours to another African mast, the 23-year-old IT consultant said she would now rally behind one of the favourites.

"I support Brazil. Many South Africans are going to do the same because the T-shirt is the same colour, yellow and green."

Tourism officials said they have their own criteria in choosing which teams to root for, on a day when the United States, England and Germany all did enough to secure their participation in the last 16.

"For us Germany and England and those countries are important because they have been core markets in which we have been working, and seeing them qualify is, from a touristic point of view, in our interest, if truth be told," said Thandiwe January-McLean, head of South African Tourism.

While the limp challenge from elsewhere in the continent has been a cause of deep disappointment, South Africa's performance was perhaps to be expected given their lowly pre-tournament world ranking of 83.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who met the team in the dressing room after the match with France, said they had done the country proud.

"It would have been great to have Bafana Bafana progress to the next stage, but their exit doesn't mean the end of the tournament," said Zuma.

"Government urges South Africans to continue playing an active role in the country's hosting of the historic 2010 FIFA World Cup. After all, this is still our World Cup."

Danny Jordaan, the chief local organiser, said he did not believe South Africa's exit would turn the tournament into a damp squib.

"This is still South Africa's World Cup. We are not going home, the World Cup is happening in our home," he said.

"I remain confident that South Africans will continue to be fantastic hosts for the next two and a half weeks."

FIFA meanwhile announced more tickets had become available for the tournament's second round following the elimination of teams such as South Africa and France.

About 4,000 tickets will be resold for the first round of 16 match, between Uruguay and the runner-up of Group B on Saturday in Port Elizabeth, said spokesman Pekka Odriozola.

Another 1,000 tickets will be sold for Sunday's match between Argentina and Mexico in Johannesburg's Soccer City.

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