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Sports News of Saturday, 26 June 2010

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We're Ghana Spank The Yanks

Starting Lineup out

The 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ enters its decisive phase today with the playing of the first two games in the round of 16 -- one of them sending Ghana against the United States.

The last of the 16 survivors from group play were determined Friday and the knockout round this year has a different look than usual.

The first World Cup on the continent was supposed to represent Africa's emergence as a global player. But in sporting terms, at least, it has disappointed. Ghana is the lone bright spot. And as the Black Stars prepare for Saturday's match against the United States with a place in the quarterfinals at stake, Ghana now carries the hopes of a continent on its shoulders.

Meanwhile, all five South American teams -- Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile -- are still alive. During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, 10 teams from Europe were part of the final 16. This time there are only six.

"All of Africa will support Ghana," said Jomo Sono, 54, a South African soccer legend and former coach of Bafana Bafana. "We'll all pray for Ghana to go as far as the finals."

And the Black Stars have heard the prayers.

"Ghana is the African hope now," said defender Samuel Inkoom on Friday. "We are not going to disappoint them."

Defender John Mensah is confident that the Black Stars can strike the United States with total darkness if they can emulate the performance they displayed against Germany.

“Our performance was good and I hope we can play like that against the USA. If we do, then it will be very hard for them to beat us,” Mensah stated.

“We played against them in the last World Cup, and we beat them. So, that motivates us and gives us confidence and determination.”

Adding more fuel to the rivalry between USA and England, and between Ghana and the USA, John Mensah avowed:

“We didn’t want to face England, as we have never played them before. I’m relieved we don’t have to face them. As for USA, we aren’t afraid of them. Like I said, we have beaten them before and I believe we can do it again.”

Ghana is a team the Americans know well.

The Black Stars eliminated the United States with a 2-1 victory in the third game of the first round in 2006. While Ghana's coach has changed (as has the United States's), six players from that squad are among the current roster.

And supporters have reason to believe the Black Stars will hold sway again despite the fact that the team scored only two goals in the first round -- in a 1-0 victory over Serbia and a 1-1 draw with Australia. Both were scored by Asamoah Gyan, the lone striker in Coach Milovan Rajevac's 4-3-2-1 scheme.

Ghana is young and energetic, boasting members of the team that defeated Brazil for the under-20 World Cup in 2009. And its confidence is high, having advanced to the Round of 16 for a second consecutive World Cup.

Still, the game-day atmosphere at Rustenburg's 40,000-seat Royal Bafokeng Stadium isn't likely to tilt in Ghana's favor. President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana is expected to attend, as is former U.S. president Bill Clinton. But it's a long, costly trip to South Africa. And most of the 1,000 Ghanaian supporters who were flown in and lodged for 15 days at their government's expense to cheer the team have been flown home, according to news reports, because funding wasn't budgeted beyond the first round.

Uruguay and South Korea will begin the win-or-go-home portion of the World Cup with a match in Port Elizabeth scheduled to start at 10 a.m. EDT. Team USA will take on Ghana in Rustenburg at 2:30 p.m. The winners of those two matches will face each other in the quarterfinals on July 2.

Starting Lineup

Line up: Richard Kingson, John Paintsil, Hans Adu Sarpei, Jonathan Mensah, John Mensah, Anthony Annan, Samuel Inkoom, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Asamoah Gyan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Andre Ayew

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