Every day they’ve stayed at their Sun City hotel, Ghana’s players have seen the sign in the lobby telling them this is the place “where the world comes to win.”
There was a new, hastily made sign in the lobby Sunday morning, hours after Ghana’s extra-time 2-1 victory over the United States sent the west African country into the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time.
“You make us proud,” it read.
After five other African squads failed to advance from the group stage, Ghana has become embraced as “Africa’s Team” at the first World Cup ever held on the continent.
“Yesterday was a big day for Africa and Ghana,” the country’s Serbian coach Milan Rajevac said Sunday. “I’m sure Ghana has more supporters now worldwide.”
That was evident at South Africa’s gambling resort, as fans from across the world congratulated the weary players as they wandered around the slot machines and casino games that dominate their hotel.
While rival countries closet themselves away from fans, the Ghanians have mingled with ease around the tourists here since changing bases two weeks ago.
Match-winner Asamoah Gyan even seemed slightly embarrassed by all the fuss he relived Saturday night’s drama with friends in the hotel coffee shop.
The players have five days to prepare for the quarterfinal against Uruguay on Friday at Soccer City ? the Johannesburg venue for the July 11 final.
“I believe if we keep on staying focused why can’t we lift the trophy?” said defender Samuel Inkoom, who made his World Cup debut in the extra-time win against the Americans.
Why are the Black Stars succeeding where their African rivals are failing?
It’s not their offense. They have failed to score more than once in the regulation 90 minutes all year.
The country’s top soccer official attributes it to a tough disciplinary code. Other teams allow too much individualism at the expense of team discipline, he says.
Ghana will accept no disorder within its squad, even if the chief culprit so far is a star such as Sulley Muntari.
The midfielder, who won the Champions League title with Inter Milan last month, is on his last warning after narrowly avoiding being sent home after abusing the coach following a group-stage draw with Australia.
Ghana Football Association president Kwesi Nyantakyi said adopting such a firm approach with Muntari was a sign of growing professionalism in both the national team and domestic competition setups ? and a lesson for the team.
“Having discipline dovetails into the performance of the team,” Nyantakyi told The Associated Press. “There is discipline. We have a code of conduct for players: they have to wake up at this time; they have to train at this time. So many rules and regulations.
“Muntari wasn’t left out, he was reprimanded and if he misbehaves again he will be thrown out.”
Nyantakyi said the one set of rules apply to everyone in the squad.
“Even though (Muntari) didn’t leave the camp he is reformed now and others know not to commit the same offense,” Nyantakyi said. “So we have achieved our objective.”
Muntari’s place in the starting lineup for the quarterfinal is in jeopardy because of how well the team performed without him for much of the match against the Americans.
Coach Rajevac said through a translator that Muntari wasn’t an automatic inclusion for the quarterfinal because, “usually you don’t change a winning team.”
There will be enforced changes for Ghana, however, with midfielder Andre Ayew and defender Jonathan Mensah both suspended. Kevin-Prince Boateng, who scored Ghana’s first goal, requires treatment for an injured right hamstring.
Their absence won’t erode any confidence in the camp.
“We have been shocking the world in the last two years,” Rajevac said.
The Black Stars already know how to win continental titles ? they have captured four African Cup of Nations titles ? and international trophies, with the Under-20 side producing Africa’s first World Cup triumph at that level last year.
“The under-20 team has won the World Cup which was a fantastic result for Ghana and the players learned how to compete,” the coach said.
Even U.S. coach Bob Bradley is a fan.
“With Ghana, like so many of the teams in Africa, there’s tremendous talent,” Bradley said a day after Ghana eliminated his squad from the World Cup for the second straight time. “So many of these players have gone to Europe at young ages and have been successful.
“As the last team from Africa still in this World Cup, Ghana has a lot to be proud of. I think the team is well coached … and the athletic talent of their team can give anybody a good run.”
AP National Writer Nancy Armour in Irene, South Africa contributed to this report.
Source: The Associated Press.