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Ghana place teamwork above stars

Ghana stand apart from previous African World Cup quarter-finalists Cameroon and Senegal because they do not possess a dominant personality.

sports Updated: Jun 28, 2010 18:23 IST

Ghana stand apart from previous African World Cup quarter-finalists Cameroon and Senegal because they do not possess a dominant personality.

Cameroon had veteran Roger Milla in 1990 and Senegal boasted El-Hadji Diouf in 2002, but Ghana superstar Michael Essien was ruled out of the tournament by a knee injury that has sidelined him since January.

This left the Black Stars in a similar situation to Michael Ballack-less Germany and both have discovered that life can still be a ball without your Chelsea midfield conductor.

Ghana face Uruguay late on Friday at Soccer City for a place in the semi-finals while Germany tackle Argentina at Cape Town Stadium the following afternoon with similar ambitions.

A coincidence is that Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana began their World Cup group campaign with a 1-0 victory although the first two achieved the feat against the defending champions in the opening match of the tournament.

Francois Omam-Biyik scored in the second half as the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon stunned two-time champions Argentina in Milan despite finishing with nine men after two red cards for wild tackles.

Senegal inflicted defeat on reigning world and European champions France in Seoul with the lone goal a scrambled affair and giant midfielder Papa Bouba Diop the scorer.

Ghana enjoyed a numerical advantage over 10-man Serbia in Pretoria for 10 minutes before Asamoah Gyan converted the late penalty that separated the teams in a grim opening Group D game.

The three points proved crucial for the West Africans as they were held 1-1 by 10-man Australia and lost 1-0 to Germany yet managed to finish runners-up because they had a superior goal difference to the Socceroos.

A Gyan thunderbolt that raised his World Cup goal haul to three lifted the Black Stars to a 2-1 victory over the United States in Rustenburg and they now have their sights set on becoming the first African semi-finalists.

And if they get there it will be because of teamwork while Cameroon relied a lot on the goals of Milla, a 38-year-old plucked from semi-retirement in Reunion, and Senegal revolved greatly around larger-than-life striker Diouf.

Richard Kingson may be only the third choice goalkeeper at unfashionable English Premiership outfit Wigan, but has impressed in South Africa apart from a thoughtless parry that gifted Australia a goal.

Defence is often the chink in the African armour but not with Ghana as captain John Mensah from Sunderland, John Paintsil from Fulham and their team-mates executed one superbly timed tackle after another to thwart the USA.

A five-man midfield that usually includes Andre Ayew, son of three-time African Footballer of the Year Abedi 'Pele' Ayew, performs its defensive and attacking functions competently and avoids the continental showboating curse.

Relying too heavily on Gyan for goals must concern coach Milovan Rajevac, a humble Serb who is never going to challenge Fabio Capello in the fashion stakes but has gone further than the richly rewarded Italian.

First Published: Jun 28, 2010 17:10 IST