Ghana aim to block U.S.

Dono­van: ‘It’s go­ing to be a pretty cool oc­ca­sion for our coun­try’

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

RUSTEN­BURG — Four years af­ter send­ing the United States crash­ing out of the World Cup, Ghana’s Black Stars again block the Amer­i­cans’ path and are the only African team into the knock­out rounds.

For­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton is among the Amer­i­can sup­port­ers who will make his way to this ru­ral farm town for to­day’s match af­ter watch­ing Lan­don Dono­van score in stop­page time for a 1-0 U.S. vic­tory over Al­ge­ria to ad­vance.

“Hands down, the biggest moment in my ca­reer. That’s some­thing I will have embed­ded in my mind for­ever,” Dono­van said.

“My guess is Satur­day is go­ing to be a pretty cool oc­ca­sion for our coun­try.”

Mo­ments from a re­peat of 2006’s dis­ap­point­ment, the Amer­i­cans con­tin­ued a thrill­ride run that has them ranked atop their quar­ter of the draw with dreams of match­ing the 1930 U.S. semi-fi­nal run from a World Cup with only 13 teams.

The Amer­i­cans ral­lied to draw Eng­land 1-1, came back from two goals down to draw Slove­nia 2-2 with a dis­al­lowed win­ning goal and shook off an­other con­tro­ver­sial no-goal ref­eree call to solve Al­ge­ria at the death to ad- vance.

“We’re like the ‘Car­diac Kids’ at the moment,” U’S. goal­keeper TimHoward­said. “That emo­tion, that pas­sion is what Amer­i­can sports fans thrive on.”

Sev­eral U.S. play­ers have said that the me­mory of the 2006 flop is in the back of their minds, an exit caused by a 2-1 loss to Ghana in the 2006 group stage. Dono­van in par­tic­u­lar was ripped for the fail­ure, but has moved past it now.

“I’ve al­ready put that be­hind me. This is the chance to do some­thing spe­cial.”

Ghana’s Black Stars, how­ever, are ready to spoil the U.S. show once again.

“From the be­gin­ning of the tour­na­ment, we were all dream­ing to go to the semi-fi­nals and now we have a big chance to do it,” said Ghana de­fender Hans Sarpei, who plays for Ger­many’s Bayer Lev­erkusen.

“Now any­thing can hap­pen. We are play­ing very well …”

South Korea or Uruguay await the U.S.-Ghana win­ner in­stead of once-pos­si­ble pow­er­house foes as Ger­many or Ar­gentina.

U.S. cap­tain Car­los Bo­cane­gra, who calls the Amer­i­cans “heart at­tack-es­que” for their ten­dency to play their best when pushed to the edge, knows how dan­ger­ous Ghana are.

“It’s go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult game,” Bo­cane­gra said. “They have some play­ers who are ca­pa­ble of scor­ing goals. They are an ath­letic side. You never count them out.”

Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan says his team is on the right path de­spite his two penalty kicks be­ing the only World Cup goals for the Black Stars.

“The Amer­i­cans are a very good team. They ex­pend a lot of en­ergy and are strong phys­i­cally,” Gyan said. “But we too have good play­ers. It is for that that we have so much self-con­fi­dence.”

— Sapa-AFP.

PHOTO: AP

FI­NAL FRON­TIER: Ghana’s Dede Ayew (left) and John

Pantsil cel­e­brate ad­vanc­ing to the sec­ond round. The Black Stars are car­ry­ing a

con­ti­nent’s hopes against

USA.

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