Can the Black Stars cruise to the round of 16 and beyond?
Already fingers are pointing at Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ghana (in no specific order) as the big three who could rescue the continent this time. In 1990 and 2002, Cameroon and Senegal respectively made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. That is Africa’s best World Cup record since the global event was instituted.
Ghana almost reached that point in Germany in 2006, but they were beaten by Brazil in the round of 16. The West Africans have since maintained an impressive form on the continent and have qualified for a second successive World Cup.
Last Friday, the Black Stars were paired in Group D with Germany, Australia and Serbia. It is one of the toughest groups in next summer’s showpiece event but at the same time manageable for the African outfit. There is no easy group at the World Cup.
The 38th FIFA ranked nation could bear the torch as the first African nation to lift the prestigious cup. Ghana has the potential. It is made up of about 70-80 per cent of European based players with few locals expected to feature at the World Cup.
The four-time African champions are endowed with players with skill, depth, and mental resolve. They need someone who could convert chances into goals in order to proceed beyond the knock-out stages.
The Black Stars should use the upcoming African Cup of Nations in Angola to sparkle and evaluate themselves ahead of South Africa 2010. They need to send shivers down the spine of their opponents, especially Germany who are the major threat in the group.
Germany have the taste of a last minute defeat still fresh in their minds, after losing a good chance to grab the title in its own backyard in 2006, before losing the final of Euro 2008 against Spain. They would not spare the slightest chance to rekindle the confidence of their fans. Their thirst for the World Cup trophy continues next year in South Africa, and Ghana should prepare for a match of fury against Joachim Loew's side.
However, the Black Stars would be digging their own World Cup grave if they shift their attention on the Germans alone. They should be going to South Africa 2010 having every team in mind and preparing beyond the group stages. Not until they are prepared to play the likes of reigning champions Italy and former champions Brazil, will the African side be ready to go beyond the group stages.
Having tasted their first World Cup tournament in 2006, the Black Stars should now have far more experience than ever because its core group of players has been around and playing at this level for a number of years.
It cannot afford to miss this great opportunity to light the torch of the continent at the World Cup as the whole world assembles in South Africa. This is the turn of Africa and the time for a team from the continent to lift the World Cup trophy on home soil. Ghana can show the way.
K.N.S Mensah, Goal.com