Sports News of Thursday, 24 June 2010

Source: AP

Ghana can go far at the World Cup, says Muntari

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - Ghana can go further in the World Cup after their second round qualification, midfielder Sulley Muntari said Wednesday.

Ghana became the only African side to progress through to the round of 16 despite a 1-0 loss to Germany on Wednesday.

Ghana went through on goal difference ahead of Australia, which beat Serbia 2-1 in a simultaneous match.

"We want to prolong our stay here," Muntari said. "We want to win every game. We want to reach far."

"This one is being hosted by an African country. And also remember that most of the boys in this current team were not there four years ago and they are getting a feel of it for the first time here. I'm very happy for them."

However coach Milan Rajevac knows Ghana will have to do something about its lack of attacking bite if it is to progress. Ghana's only two goals from three group games came from the penalty spot, despite twice playing against 10 men.

Muntari, whose uneasy relationship with Ghana officials almost resulted in him being sent home for abusing coach Rajevac following the 1-1 draw with Australia in their second group match, came on as a second-half substitute for the second time in the tournament.

Asked if Ghana is capable of at least reaching the semi-finals, which no African team has never done, Muntari said: "We want to do it for Africa. We want to break records."

Ghana will now meet Group C winners United States in the second round. The Africans beat the US in Germany in 2006.

"They are a very good side," Muntari said. "It's not going to be easy. We have to work extra hard to beat them."

The Ghana players had to wait for the confirmation of the Australia-Serbia result before celebrating. Fullback John Painstil and winger Andre Ayew went on a lap of honour around the stadium after the scoreboard showed that they had finished second.

"I was very excited and relieved," Painstil said. "When we were down 1-0, we were not thinking about that match between Australia and Serbia. We were trying to equalize."

Painstil agreed Ghana have to score from open play if they are to progress past the second round.

"We've been playing well, but it's high time we start taking our chances," Painstil said. "Today if we had taken our chances we would have beaten Germany 3-1."

The lack of goalscoring was of no concern to Ghana fans, who celebrated into the night after the team progressed.

Jubilation was put temporarily on hold as commentators calculated the final standings in Group D, before announcing the team was through to the knockout stages and would meet the U.S. in the round of 16.

Vuvuzelas were blown and the Accra Mall, where a large crowd had gathered to watch a screening of the match erupted in celebration, after a tense couple of hours when the streets of the normally buzzing capital were emptied.

Julius Adams, 23 a student in Accra said, "losing by a lone goal showed a lot of determination on their part."

Adwoa Yeboah, 19, a shop assistant said a win over the U.S. would prove that Ghana is a strong football nation.

"It has been a great match and l cannot fault any of the boys, they played their part and for the huge expectation that was placed on them, they have come out with flying colors," Yeboah said.

Aminu Abass, 38, was less than satisfied, saying Germany deserved to win the game.

"Our coach was not very tactical, he could have changed some of the players who were not playing well especially in the front," Abass said.

"l don't understand why he brought in Sulley Muntari at the closing stages, because this is a guy who could have scored for the country."