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Friday, July 2, 2010

Ghana carry Africa's hopes, Brazil face Dutch

Reuters - 1 hour ago
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Ghana carried the hopes of a continent in Africa's first World Cup on Friday while Brazil's coach Dunga said their quarter-final with the Netherlands could be one of the most thrilling matches of the tournament.

While all of Africa got behind the Black Stars for their attempt to be the first Africans to reach the semi-finals when they face Uruguay on Friday, FIFA threatened to sanction Nigeria for political interference.
Jerome Valcke, secretary general of soccer's governing body, said Nigeria would be suspended from world soccer if President Goodluck Jonathan did not reverse his withdrawal of the team from international competition because of its dismal World Cup performance.
Speaking in a local radio interview, Valcke gave Nigeria a deadline of 1600 GMT on Monday to comply.
The sanction would mean the blocking of FIFA funds and the banning of all Nigerian teams, including club sides, from international tournaments.
FIFA had already warned the French government to keep out of soccer after parliament launched an inquiry into the 2006 runner-up's ignominious early exit here.
A survey in the Netherlands, which has never won the trophy despite its admired style of free-flowing soccer, said 40 percent of all workers would take the day off, or a half-day, to watch the afternoon match in Port Elizabeth.
"They are always difficult and beautiful games," said Dunga of the match. He captained the five-times World Cup winners to victory over the same opponents in the 1994 and 1998 tournaments.
Reflecting a mood across the continent, South African newspapers had headlines backing Ghana's attempt to beat the previous best performance by an African team. "Africa Unite, Black Stars carry continent's dream," said the Sowetan.
The Ghana Football Association said it had received a message of support from Nelson Mandela, Africa's most revered statesman. "We join everybody else on the continent and in the diaspora in wishing you success," Mandela said.
The provincial government of Gauteng, around Johannesburg, South Africa's business hub, has taken out newspaper advertisements and put up posters backing Ghana.
Striker Asamoah Gyan said they could make history.
"We have an opportunity to do something never done before... we have no doubt we have all the African support."
The first two quarter-finals restart the World Cup action after a two-day lull.
The Netherlands' four-out-of-four wins in South Africa have been solid rather than spectacular. Yet with attacking talent like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Rafael van der Vaart, they pose a real threat to the Brazilians.
"We play our better games against teams that want to play football as well," winger Ryan Babel said.
Dunga has also complained about previous over-defensive opponents and echoed Babel's sentiments. "When you have teams like this, it's always good," he said.
For all their legendary strike power, Brazil have also become masters in defense under Dunga.
Despite criticism at home for abandoning flair, Dunga appears to have found a winning formula of impregnable, European-style defense combined with the lightning-fast counter-attack capacity of Robinho, Kaka and Luis Fabiano.
Cameroon and Senegal reached the quarter-finals in 1990 and 2002. To chart new territory, Ghana need to beat a mean-looking Uruguay side, who are one of an unprecedented four South American teams in the quarters.
"It is a match of destiny which places an onerous responsibility on the Black Stars," Ghana's former president John Kufuor told Reuters.
Uruguay also have history calling them.
"La Celeste" won the World Cup in 1930 and 1950 and would love to recapture those early glory days. Strike pair Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez's five goals between them so far would suggest the South Americans may have the upper hand.
President Jacob Zuma said the World Cup would inspire all Africans regardless of the result because it showed the continent was capable of managing a huge global event.
Zuma said in an interview with FIFA that the World Cup could be a stepping stone to a first Olympics on the continent.
The other two quarter-finals, on Saturday, pit Argentina against Germany and Paraguay v Spain.
FIFA said the captain of every quarter-finalist would read out a declaration condemning racism and any other form of discrimination in both soccer and society.
(Reporting by Reuters World Cup team; Writing by Barry Moody and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Ossian Shine)

Pictures from AFP.

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