The first World Cup in Africa has its first African winner.
Ghana stunned Serbia when Asamoah Gyan scored on an 84th-minute penalty kick Sunday for a 1-0 victory in Group D. The win set off celebrations not only on the Loftus Versfeld pitch, but throughout Ghana.
And across the African continent.
“That’s what you’re seeing,” Ghana midfielder Stephen Appiah said. “This is the first time the World Cup is held in Africa, and all Africa is united.”
After the final whistle, the Ghana players ran across the field in jubilation, some carrying national flags as they received applause from a crowd that pretty much made them the home team.
“Every African is behind us,” Gyan said. “I salute all you guys. We win this match for you.”
And for the folks back home.
Large crowds gathered on major streets in Accra. Cars draped in the national flag swarmed the roads, and some drivers honked their horns while others sang.
“The Black Stars have started what the African countries in the tournament have not been able to do so far by winning a match,” 15-year-old viewer Inusah Gariba said. “We have taken the lead and hopefully an African team — preferably Ghana — would come out tops in the final.”
That’s a long way off. In the opener for both teams, Zdravko Kuzmanovic needlessly handled a cross in the area, then argued the call and the yellow card he received. Gyan drove the penalty kick high to the left for the only goal.
Previously, Ghana missed a series of headers. John Mensah and Gyan missed the target and Dede Ayew headed against the goalpost.
Serbia’s only real threat near the end was a shot by Milos Krasic that was brilliantly saved by Richard Kingson.
The Serbs had Aleksandar Lukovic sent off in the 74th minute for a second yellow card.
“For sure, this is a big blow for us. To start a World Cup with a defeat is a bad thing,” Serbia coach Radomir Antic said. “We will use all our energy to be positive when preparing for the next game (against Germany next Friday).”
Germany shut out Australia 4-0 in the other group game Sunday.
The only African team to reach the second round at the 2006 World Cup, Ghana nearly got a second goal. Gyan almost made it 2-0 in injury time but hit the post after a burst down the left side.
“This is all I have worked for, and to be man of the match, it is fantastic,” he said.
The fast-moving Ghanaians created more chances and could have been ahead by halftime.
Central defender Mensah headed a free kick wide of the far post and Gyan failed to reach a left wing cross by Kevin-Prince Boateng as the Serb defense struggled against well-directed balls into the middle.
Defender Aleksander Korolov produced the first threat to the Ghanaians with a 30-yard free kick that sailed just wide, and goalkeeper Richard Kingson fumbled another long range drive by Dejan Stankovic.
But they made little use of the height of 6-foot-8 striker Nikola Zigic, who was replaced in the middle of the second half having made little impact.
The Serbs finally got close in the 79th when Marko Pantelic left the ball to Krasic, whose left-footed shot was acrobatically pushed over the crossbar by Kingson.
Neven Subotic of Salt Lake City made his World Cup debut when he entered as a sub for Serbia in the 76th minute. Subotic made one start and three substitute appearances for the U.S. at the 2005 Under-17 World Championship, where he played alongside forward Jozy Altidore, a member of this year’s American World Cup team.
Subotic left the U.S. national team program after he was passed over by coach Thomas Rongen for the 2007 Under-20 World Cup. He made his debut for Serbia in March 2009.
Source: The Associated Press.