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Sports News of Saturday, 18 June 2005

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Ghana On Cloud 9....

Bafana's World Cup dreams uncertain after defeat
June 18, 2005 -- Ghana closed on a first appearance at the World Cup with a decisive 2-0 win over South Africa in an untidy qualifier.

After eight matches, South Africa and Ghana are level on 15 points - but Ghana tops Group 2 due to a better goal difference.

With three points at stake for both sides, South Africa were the first off the blocks, South Africa's veteran striker Shaun Bartlett came close with a lob and a header during an even first half while Appiah just missed the target with a sweetly struck volley.

The second half started at a furious pace - and again it was South Africa that threatened - but still could not score.

Appiah created the first goal with a run from midfield while Bafana Bafana (The Boys) appealed for offside and the Black Stars captain centred for Amoah to tap in.

South Africa threatened all afternoon but failed to convert. The longer the match progressed the more an unimaginative South African side lacking suspended striker Benni McCarthy struggled to create openings.

Ghana made sure of all three points in the 90th minute with a second goal by Michael Essien. Bafana Bafana failed to clear a free kick to the far post Essien delivered the final blow, climbing above Nasief Morris to head past goalkeeper Calvin Marlin.

Stuart Baxter, the English coach tasked with guiding South Africa to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, conceded he had to rely on Uganda or Cape Verde to upset Ghana.

"Finishing first is not in our hands anymore. Obviously this is not the result we wanted, especially having worked so hard in training," he said.

"We were aware of how dangerous Appiah can be when he darts into channels and worked hard to combat it during our preparations."

With two matches to go before the end of the qualifiers, Ghana is now left with Uganda at home in September and Cape Verde away in October.

Ghana leads Group 2 with a goal difference - and if neither country drops points, then the Black Stars of Ghana could qualify for their first ever World Cup final. The top placed country qualifies for the World Cup while the top three will play in Egypt at the African Cup of Nations.

Only group winners qualify for the 2006 finals and if Ghana beat Uganda (home) and Cape Verde (away), only third-placed Democratic Republic of Congo can overtake them.

DR Congo would need three consecutive victories to finish level with Ghana and have a more difficult final fixture away to 1998 and 2002 World Cup qualifiers South Africa.

Despite winning the African Nations Cup a record-equalling four times, the Black Stars had a dismal World Cup record ahead of the 2006 qualifying competition.

But after the latest campaign began disastrously with a 1-0 loss in Burkina Faso, the Stars have been unbeaten in seven games while South Africa also fell in DR Congo.

..World Cup 2006: Table & Results
Line Up: George Owu, John Painstil, Daniel Edusei, Issah Ahmed, John Mensah M. Essien, L Kingston, S. Appiah, M. Amoah, JoeTex frimpong, S. Muntari
Bench: Patrick Antwi, Daniel Coleman, Emmanuel Osei Yakubu Abubakari Hamza Mohammed Godwin Attram