Sports News of Saturday, 9 June 2012

Source: Kwesi Asumadu/Finder Sports

FLASHBACK: So close Jet so far

With Ghana set to play Zambia in the next World Cup qualifier, here is a recount of events the last time the two teams met.

At the final whistle Chris Katongo led his charges to do the Haka – a war dance made famous by the All Blacks (New Zealand Rugby team). For they had won the war, the war against the Black Stars. It was a war they were told they couldn’t win but here they stood triumphant at the end.

"This is the greatest moment ever a player can have to play in the final. It doesn't come every day" Katongo said after the game.

This was a team inspired by the sad memories of 1993; sensing they had a chance to make their immortal heroes more proud than ever. “Obviously when we saw that the final is going to be in Gabon, we said this is our time, because that's where our brothers died” remarked Isaac Chansa.

The Copper bullets had shot the Black Stars down but a cross examination of events on the pitch tells a story of suicide and not homicide. The ghost of Soccer City had turned up for the game to once again haunt Ghana through its host Asamoah Gyan, the one they call the Baby Jet.

Déjà vu arrived to mock Ghana, this time choosing the 7th minute instead of the 120th minute. The dream like it has done for the past 30 years had come to the cross roads, once again choosing the path of disappointment. The Black Stars played better in Bata but failing to find the back of the net will leave a nation broken hearted.

The game started with Zambia pinning the Black Stars in their half. Two corners in five minutes was all they had to show for it. Then seven minutes on the clock the Black Stars won a penalty. Inkoom‘s cross into the box was flicked on by Jordan and Kwadwo Asamoah, getting on to the end of the ball was bundled over. Gyan stepped up, but Mweene was equal to the task at hand. Another big penalty miss and surely Gyan has chosen the title of his autobiography- “Agony From 12 Yards”.

The missed penalty gave the Black Stars an adrenaline shot, sending them into attacking overdrive. Both Gyan and the twinkled toed Jordan Ayew had strikes at goal. The Copper bullets had now morphed into the copper shields, blocking attack after attack from Ghana.

Jordan struck an air shot from three yards and all these misses would come back to haunt the Black Stars. It was no coincidence that with Derek Boateng on the field the Black Stars were in total command of the game, possession shooting through the roof. Statisitics show that when Xavi is on the field Barcelona’s control of the game as if not enough already becomes more.

Paul Scholes does similar for Manchester United while Pirlo is doing it currently at the rejuvenated Juventus. Derek Boateng belongs to this league of players. The league of midfield conductors. His presence in the heart of midfield brought a calming influence; his passing range a joy to behold; sitting deep and orchestrating the Black Starswave of attacks. He was the Black Stars Pirlo; Pirlo in dreadlocks.

But all tournament Goran Stevanovic was blinded to this, only stumbling on it due to the injury of Agyemang Badu. Zambia’s coach with the movie star look, Herve Renard, was seething on the touchline; screaming instructions at his off colour team. It was more of auditioning for a role in an action movie rather than the romantic one his looks suggest.

The Zambians did give the Black Stars a few warning shots. Kalaba danced around the Black Stars defence before serving Chris Katongo with a gilt-edged chance which he embarrassingly missed.

The second half started and it seemed Jordan Ayew had swapped his boots for nitro enhanced ones; first having a shot at goal which the inspired Mweene dealt with comfortably. He then took on a couple of Zambian defenders, winning a free kick in a dangerous position. The Kwadwo Asamoah-taken set piece fell kindly to John Boye who failed to find the target from three yards out.

Surely lady luck looked to have switched camps. Nshima had replaced fufu on her menu. Kwadwo Asamoah swirled and turned beautifully, his goal bound shot deflected wide.

The Zambians were holding on for dear life. Asamoah Gyan continued to huff and puff to no avail, Inkoom continued to give his how not to cross lecture. Injury meant John Mensah could not soldier on, Isaac Vorsah coming on as his replacement.

As the Black Stars went in search of a goal the Copper Bullets ambushed them, with substitute Emmanuel Mayuka’s wonder strike giving the Chipolopolo the game’s opener.

In Prince Tagoe and Sulley Muntari, Goran Stevanovic sent his calvary on, but in truth they were rather the Red Cross; on to help the wounded off rather to help the team to fight back. Derek Boateng got a second booking and was sent off.

Still the Black Stars had one last chance; Isaac Vorsah’s goal bound shot blocked by the Zambians.

Zambia went on to defeat Ivory Coast in the final of the African Nations Cup to become Kings Of Africa.

KWASI APPIAH TAKES OVER THE REIGNS The after effects of the Black Stars failure meant Goran Stevanovic was axed while Kwasi Appiah took over. Kwasi Appiah's first game incharge saw the Black Stars whitewash Lesotho 7-0 and most Ghanaians will be hoping for the same as the Black Stars take on the Kings Of Africa.