Ghana Win Sparks Cologne Party
Ghana's first-ever victory at soccer's World Cup sparked flag-waving celebrations from Cologne's historic squares to Accra's markets and may inspire other African teams still to win at the tournament, players said.
``This win is for the team, for Ghana and the people of Africa,'' midfielder Michael Essien told reporters at the German city's FIFA World Cup Stadium yesterday.
Ghana, winner of a record four African championships, upset the odds to beat the Czech Republic 2-0 and boost its chance of advancing to the round of 16 on its first World Cup appearance.
Africa's five representatives had previously lost five and drawn two of their matches at the four-yearly showpiece. The result sparked celebrations in the Ghanaian capital similar to the scenes that marked the country's independence from the U.K. in 1957, according to the Accra Daily Mail's Web site.
``The people at home will be going crazy,'' Stephen Moyo, a 32-year-old engineer from Accra, said in an interview in Cologne. ``There's been so much anticipation and this will cause an outburst of joy.''
Moyo, draped in the country's red, green and gold flag was standing next to Cologne's 126-year-old cathedral, once the world's tallest building.
He and many of the other 45,000 fans at the stadium made their way there after match. Most neutrals chanted for the Africans during the match and some wore their flag, which bears the Black Star that gives the team its nickname.
Backing the Underdog
``This is why we have come,'' 22-year-old Peter Meeske, a logistics student at Germany's Mannheim University, said in an interview. ``You must always want the small team to win.''
Ghana's win followed a loss to Italy and further defeats for Ivory Coast, Togo and Angola, which also managed a draw with Mexico. Tunisia also tied with Saudi Arabia.
All seven previous World Cup winners have been from Europe or South America, while South Korea and the U.S. are the only semifinalists from another continent. Cameroon, in 1990, and Senegal, 12 years later, are the only African teams to reach the last eight.
``This will give the other African teams a lot of confidence, because people expected us all to go out, but maybe now we can go on,'' said striker Razak Pimpong. ``The next games will be different.''
Pele, who helped Brazil win the trophy three times, said in 1977 that Africa would have a champion by 2000 and later revised his prediction by 10 years. Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech, whose saves prevented a heavier defeat, said Ghana is a contender.
``They are one of the most athletic teams in the competition,'' he said. ``They're very quick and strong and if they keep playing like this, they can go a long way.''
Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic said his task is now to help his players maintain their composure for a final group game against the U.S., where a victory would ensure a place in the next round. Nine of the team that started against the Czechs play in Europe or Israel.
``We always have the same problem. If we lose, we have to up morale, and in this case we have to clam them down a little bit,'' said Dujkovic. ``But they play in important leagues in important teams so they know how to adapt.''