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Sports News of Saturday, 17 June 2006

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Ghana Beats Czechs 2-0

COLOGNE, Germany -- Ghana delivered Africa's first victory in this World Cup with style.

The Black Stars stunned the Czech Republic _ ranked second in the world _ 2-0 Saturday. A goal in the second minute gave them the lead and they peppered the Czech net the rest of the game before finally getting another goal.

Ghana's win also helped the United States, which tied Italy 1-1 later Saturday. The Italians lead Group E with four points, the Czechs and Ghana have three and the Americans one.

All four are alive to advance, depending on their games Thursday. The Americans play Ghana and the Italians face the Czechs.

Asamoah Gyan scored in the second minute off a piercing pass from captain Stephen Appiah. It all went the west Africans' way from then for the biggest upset in Germany so far.

"It's fantastic. We showed we can do it," Appiah said. "I thank the Ghanians for their massive support and the Germans, who were shouting 'Ghana, Ghana.'

"I couldn't believe it. I was nearly crying."

Sulley Muntari put the game out of reach in the 82nd minute after keeper Petr Cech made a handful of spectacular saves.

Czech coach Karel Bruckner had hoped to have qualification sealed before facing Italy on Thursday, but was left to marvel at Saturday's stunner.

"Our opponent showed extraordinary quality. We couldn't cope," Bruckner said.

Heavily outnumbered by Czech fans in the crowd, Ghana's supporters roared with delight at every chance and danced in their seats in the 45,000-seat Cologne Stadium.

Ghana defender John Pantsil, who plays for Hapoel Tel-Aviv, pulled out an Israeli flag in celebration. John Mensah revealed a T-shirt with an image of Jesus holding a lamb.

Gyan picked up a pass from Appiah and easily beat Cech from just inside the area only 68 seconds into the match. Muntari added the second, sending a rocket of a shot into the upper right corner of the net.

Both goal scorers will miss the next match after successive yellow cards.

Gyan missed a penalty kick in the 67th after Czech defender Tomas Ujfalusi was sent off. He hit the right goalpost moments after putting a shot into the net _ but before the referee blew his whistle to restart play.

Ujfalusi brought down striker Matthew Amoah to draw the penalty.

The Czechs were missing strikers Jan Koller and Aston Villa's Milan Baros with injuries, but it was the defense that broke down.

"Ghana played very well, starting with their early goal. We were forced to play an open game which served Ghana," coach Bruckner said.

Vratislav Lokvenc, the lone striker for the Czech Republic, was quiet for most of the game and will be suspended in the third group match for getting his second yellow card of the round.

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic shook up his team's defense following a 2-0 loss to Italy. His strategy worked, in great part because of the early score by Gyan.

"Today we had big motivation. It was do or die ... I'm surprised it was only 2-0," Dujkovic said.

"I'm very happy. We are still in the battle for qualification. I believe we can pass. We had many chances to score ... Cech made many saves. He saved the Czech Republic this afternoon."

Cech said his teammates lost the initiative from the start.

"We let them do what they wanted," the keeper said. "They scored in 70 seconds and then we had to attack and they relied on counterattacks and added another goal."

Ghana dominated with Appiah and Michael Essien repeatedly exposing weaknesses in the Czech defense. Cech did well to stop a shot at close range from Amoah in the 70th, and again from Muntari three minutes later.

With Essien and Appiah running the Czech defense ragged, Cech also stopped a barrage of late shots, with Gyan missing another one-on-one chance in the 79th.

But Muntari found the net with a shot that left Cech no chance _ and the Americans a better chance.

"It was a good victory for the team, my country and Africa as a whole," Essien said.

Five Africa teams are playing in the World Cup: Ghana, Angola, Ivory Coast, Togo and Tunisia.