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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Relief for Africa as Ghana keep World Cup hopes alive

                        Ghana were the only team to make it into the knock-out stages of the last tournament

By Joshua Howat Berger (AFP) – 1 hour ago
JOHANNESBURG — Africa rallied behind Ghana on Thursday after the Black Stars kept the continent's dreams of football glory alive by making it through to the second round of the first World Cup on African soil.
Africa had faced the ignominy of having no representatives in the business end of the tournament for the first time in 28 years after a string of failures by the continent's five other representatives.
But the Black Stars limited three-times champions Germany to a 1-0 victory in Johannesburg late Wednesday, a result which enabled them to stagger into second place in Group D and thus line up a showdown with the United States.
"The African National Congress congratulates Ghana for representing the entire continent by proceeding to the next round of this 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament," said South Africa's ruling party in a statement.
"Well-done Ghana for doing Africa proud and all of us as Africans proud."
Tournament organisers were also desperate for at least one African team to make it through to the knock-out stage given it is the first time the tournament is being held on the world's poorest continent.
"We wish to congratulate Ghana for keeping the African flag and the representation high in the tournament and we wish them luck in their next game against the USA," said Rich Mkhondo, spokesman for the local organising committee.
"This is an African World Cup, and we have always maintained that we wish and hope that the African teams will do well, and they are making us very proud."
Ghana, the first African nation to win its independence, was the continent's trail-blazer at the last tournament when they also were the only team to make it into the knock-out stages.
They managed to beat the US at the 2006 tournament in Germany and a repeat performance would give them a decent chance of making the semi-finals with either Uruguay or South Korea standing in their way.
No African team has ever made it to the semi-finals of a World Cup, and the hosts have been quick to transfer their allegiance to Ghana in the wake South Africa's first round exit on Tuesday.
"Ghana Fly the Flag for Africa", read a headline in the Johannesburg-based daily The Star, adding that they had provided "some much-needed relief for Africa ... whose teams have been disastrous."
Although a record six African teams qualified for the tournament, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa have all been knocked out and Ivory Coast are almost certainly doomed to lose out to Brazil and Portugal.
Reigning champions Italy are also struggling after drawing against lowly New Zealand and Paraguay in their opening games and need a victory over Slovakia Thursday to be sure of making the last 16.
Two of Europe's other big guns, former champions Germany and England, have already booked their ticket to the second round and will meet in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
English newspapers are already savouring the prospect of a new battle between the old enemies. England won the 1966 World Cup against Germany but have since suffered heartache agains the same team -- including their defeat on penalties in the 1990 semi-finals.

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