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Sports Features of Monday, 25 January 2010

Source: SEBASTIAN HASSETT

Rising Black Stars loom as big hurdle

Be afraid, Australia ... a Ghanaian fan adds a biblical touch to his barracking as his team takes on the tournament hosts in Luanda, Angola.

Germany might be the team to beat in Australia's group at the World Cup but an indication of how difficult it will be for the Socceroos to progress into the knockout phase was rammed home yesterday when Ghana qualified for the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Paired against tournament hosts Angola, the Black Stars not only had to overcome their opponents but a hostile 50,000-strong crowd at the Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda.

A solitary goal in the 16th minute from Stade Rennais striker Asamoah Gyan proved enough to secure victory and a passage to the semi-final. In the Ghanaian capital of Accra, fans responded by spilling out on to the streets and engaging in an impromptu citywide party.

But to get to the final the Black Stars will have to overcome the winners of the sudden-death match between Egypt and Cameroon - played overnight in Benguela - on Thursday. That encounter should provide an even greater indication of Ghana's quality given that, in the past six tournaments, Egypt and Cameroon have five titles between them.

Ghana themselves are four-time winners but have failed to lift any silverware since 1982. However, in a sign things have improved, they finished third on home soil two years ago.

Of further concern to the Socceroos, Ghana won the match without their two best players, injured Chelsea star Michael Essien and Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari, who was dropped from the squad for disciplinary problems.