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World Cup

Forget Ronaldo now, Ghana must summon the spirit of ‘06

19:26 GMT+4 25/11/2022
Essien Ronaldo Ayew
The Black Stars have been in this World Cup situation before…and pulled through

There’s no doubt that Ghana’s Black Stars will be hurting this Friday.

Despite the pre-tournament negativity that surrounded the camp, despite the criticisms of Otto Addo’s regime and the cynicism that accompanied his team selections, the West African giants gave a good account of themselves against Portugal.

They may have been defeated 3-2, but at times, it wasn’t apparent that this was a team ranked 61st in the world facing a team ranked ninth.

Indeed, Ghana were mightily unlucky to have fallen one behind, when Cristiano Ronaldo tumbled in the box as Mohammed Salisu nicked the ball away from him, and demonstrated admirable battling qualities to come back into the match.

Even though they lost 3-2, it could have been a different story had Inaki Williams not slipped at the death when he had successfully duped Portugal stopper Diogo Costa and almost snatched an equaliser.

Of course the sense of injustice about Ronaldo’s penalty will continue to rankle, while Ghana must also iron out the kind of errors from the likes of Abdul Rahman Baba, Thomas Partey and Jordan Ayew that will be punished so brutally at this level.

However, while it’s important to continue to use the desire to right the wrongs of Thursday’s bout to fuel Ghana’s progress against South Korea and Uruguay, it’s important they don’t dwell on the refereeing error in their opener.

Instead, they must summon the spirit of 2006 to turn around their precarious situation in Group H.

Back in the ’06 tournament in Germany, the Black Stars marked their first ever match in the competition with defeat, as eventual winners Italy defeated them 2-0 in Hanover following goals from Andrea Pirlo and Vincenzo Iaquinta.

It was a tough outing for Ratomir Dujkovic and his troops, as while they matched their illustrious opponents for the first 30 minutes, the Italians’ quality eventually told.

There were also heart-breaking moments and high-profile errors in the match as well, notably when Samuel Kuffour’s under-hit backpass was gobbled up by Iaquinta to take the contest beyond the Black Stars.

Worse even than that, Ghana faced the ominous prospect of meeting the Czech Republic in their second game; the Europeans had been tipped as potential dark horses, having reached the semi-finals of Euro 2004 two years beforehand.

The Czechs had battered the United States in their opener—winning 3-0 in Gelsenkirchen—and the likes of Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky, Pavel Nedved and Karel Poborsky were confident they could secure progress to the Last 16 against the Black Stars.

The 2006 campaign can get overlooked due to Ghana’s achievements in 2010, but their 2-0 triumph over the Czechs in Cologne ought to be considered one of the nation’s finest achievements.

They put their defeat by Italy behind them, came out strong, took an early lead through Asamoah Gyan, and ran out 2-0 winners.

Progress to the Last 16 was confirmed with victory against the States.

It’s a blueprint the national side must follow this time around, where back-to-back victories can still take them through to the knockouts.

In this instance, neither Uruguay or South Korea were looking as threatening as the Czech Republic did in their opening bout in 2006, and Ghana must build on the promising elements of that defeat by Portugal in order to progress.

Forget Ronaldo’s tumble, forget VAR, forget the cruel defeat…it’s time that Ghana summon the spirit of ’06.