World Cup: Ghana Still In It, Advances To Q'Finals
Ghana continued to fly the African flag at the 2010 World Cup following a 2-1 extra-time victory over USA in the last 16 of this summer's tournament at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
With hosts South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria and Ivory Coast all falling in the group stages, it was left to Milovan Rajevac's team to shoulder the expectations of a continent.
But Kevin-Prince Boateng did not appear to buckle under that weight when he swept Ghana into a fifth minute lead before Asamoah Gyan scored his third goal of the finals in extra-time to secure a quarter-final against Uruguay.
Landon Donovan's penalty and a second-half revival from USA, who were seeking revenge having been eliminated from the group stages of the 2006 World Cup after a controversial defeat to the West Africans, had threatened to crash the party.
But Rajevac, a former contemporary of the likes of Pele, Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer in the US indoor soccer league, saw his men follow in the footsteps of the 1990 Cameroon team and the 2002 Senegal side in becoming an African outfit to reach the last eight.
Never mind the American dream for vengeance, this was the Fifa dream in terms of what the global governing body wishes the World Cup to represent; a contest between two emerging football nations on the grandest of stages.
Ghana's victory will ensure their stock continues to rise after their appearance in the African Cup of Nations final with a team that included players who had lifted the World Cup at Under-20 level in 2009.
But, despite their elimination, the performance of Bob Bradley's USA, who were Confederations Cup finalists last summer, should also ensure that the status of 'soccer' continues to increase in the land of stars and stripes.
USA welcomed Robbie Findley back from suspension after he missed the dramatic group stages win over Algeria due to suspension, while midfielder Ricardo Clark replaced Maurice Edu.
Ghana made just one change as Samuel Inkoom came in for Prince Tagoe, who had a yellow card against his name.
The match was predicted to be an intriguing contest between two attack-minded sides and it started in a lively fashion as Boateng had vuvuzelas being used at maximum lung capacity when he opened the scoring in the fifth minute.
Having robbed a sluggish Clark on the halfway line, the Portsmouth midfielder charged forward with purpose, as Jay DeMerit backed off, before firing a low 18-yarder that beat Tim Howard at his near post.
From a USA perspective, the goal was riddled with errors and it set the tone for a first-half performance from Bradley's side that was lacking in their usual pace, power and intent.
Ghana, though, were proving unadventurous and were apparently content with their lead as they ignored the opportunity to capitalise on the fact that Dede Ayew was being offered the freedom of Rustenburg on the left wing.
USA's Steve Cherundolo decided to put a stop to Ayew's darting runs and cynically raked his boot down the 20-year-old's calf in the 17th minute to earn a booking which would have suspended him for a meeting with Uruguay.
Former US President Bill Clinton was in attendance after rearranging his schedule as honorary chairman of his country's bid to host the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022 because he had found the victory over Algeria so enjoyable.
But he must have been regretting his decision. The petulance of Cherundolo's behaviour epitomised USA's frustration as Bradley's men failed to click into gear.
Clark was a serial offender and his return to the starting XI lasted only half-an-hour before he was substituted and Edu was introduced.
The change appeared to give the USA an injection of impetus as the 35th minute saw their first genuine chance when Findley forced Ghana's Wigan goalkeeper Richard Kingson to save with his feet.
But the Africans continued to enjoy the better of proceedings and Howard was required to stop smartly from Kwadwo Asamoah's left-footed effort as the half drew to a close.
Bradley decided to make his second substitution during the interval, with Findley making way for Benny Feilhaber.
The substitute was immediately involved after the restart, drawing a good save from the feet of Kingson, and a tactical shuffle was allowing Donovan, the hero against Algeria, to grow in influence.
Ghana were dropping deep, with nerves and a stick-or-twist uncertainty playing a part, and the attacking play that had been a hallmark of their earlier involvement in the competition was becoming increasingly sporadic.
USA inevitably benefited from their opponents' hesitation and in the 62nd minute they drew level when Donovan converted a penalty, which clipped the right-hand post on its way into the net, after Clint Dempsey had been fouled by Jonathan Mensah.
USA were dominating and their runners from deep were proving a constant menace, with Ghana's cause hampered by the earlier departure of goalscorer Boateng due to injury.
However, anxiety levels increased and extra-time loomed into view. But the match once again came to life at the beginning of the additional 30 minutes.
In the 93rd minute Gyan had too much strength for Carlos Bocanegra in a race for a long pass before he smashed an unstoppable shot over the head of the advancing Howard.
USA looked tired and could muster little in terms of a reply, with only a scramble at a corner in added time at the end of the 120 minutes providing any scare for a triumphant Ghana.