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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Playing Against "Africa's Team"

Going into this 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the conventional wisdom going into the tournament would be that this would be the World Cup where African teams would shine, that an African side would get beyond the quarterfinals, a stage where only Cameroon and Senegal reached in 1990 and 2002.

The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong. Even South Africa, the host nation, failed to qualify-the first time a hosting nation has failed to get out of group play. It should be said that at least South Africa played with a lot of heart, and beat defending World Cup runner's up France(A good group of individuals who behaved like a bunch of bitchy divas in South Africa. The French press has just savaged them for their poor play on the field and their deplorable conduct

The US National Team had to beat Algeria in their last group game to qualify for the last 16. The North Africans showed a great deal of pluck in tying England in the previous match, and showed a lot of fluidity to their game on the counter-attack. Landon Donovan's goal in injury time saved the US's bacon, and gave them the right to face the last remaining African side in this World Cup: The Black Stars of Ghana.

There have been a surprising number of American fans in South Africa, but in Rustenberg, it's a pretty safe bet that the majority of the South African fans-as well as the rest of Africa will be pulling for Ghana. 

The winner of this game will get Uruguay in the quarterfinals. It's a team that defends very well, but does not inspire fear like Brazil or Argentina. Whoever wins this USA-Ghana match will have to like its chances of a possible semi-final. Ghana, it should be pointed out, beat the USA 2-1 at the World Cup 4 years ago. They can play and have a lot of skill. The one saving grace is that they don't have a top flight striker like Cameroon's Samuel E'to or  La Cote D'Ivoire's Didier Drogba.

Of course I am pulling for the US...but there is a part of me that feels like if the US wins, it will really rain on the parade for African football fans. If Ghana wins, it I will be a bit disappointed...but it will be offset by the smiles of African football fans the world over.

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