COMMENT: The Black Stars came close to reaching the round of 16 against Portugal but will have to wait four more years for another chance after a campaign ruined by cash disputes
By Stefan Coerts in Brasilia
Ghana were incredibly close to reaching the World Cup semi-finals for the first time ever four years ago, yet Asamoah’s Gyan missed penalty against Uruguay eventually saw their dreams end in dramatic fashion.
This summer’s tournament in Brazil was the perfect way to make amends and banish the demons from memory. Things went differently, though.
With experienced players such as Asamoah Gyan, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Kwadwo Asamoah and Sulley Muntari, combined with talented youngsters like Christian Atsu and Abdul Majeed Waris, the Africans seemed to have the weapons at their disposal to challenge the world’s top nations.
Yet their tournament was marred by matters off the pitch that eventually saw them stumble at the first hurdle. Their opener against USA ended in a disappointing 2-1 loss as they failed to take their chances, making a round of 16 spot a seemingly impossible mission with games against Germany and Portugal coming up.
A 2-2 draw against Joachim Low’s side combined with Portugal’s draw versus USA with the same scoreline on matchday two got them back in contention, though.
A win by two goals over Portugal at the Estadio Mane Garrincha on Thursday would have been enough, so long as Germany would defeat USA. Low’s men did what they had to do. Ghana, however, failed to keep their end of the deal – and they only have themselves to blame.
Rather than focus on the game ahead, Ghana’s players threatened to boycott the crucial encounter with Portugal if they did not receive their appearance fees before kick-off.
Their threat prompted the Ghanaian government to fly in a plane with $3 million in cash in an attempt to solve the matter, but the damage was already done.
The pre-match press conference was all about money, not the decisive World Cup game ahead. Focus was gone and things only got worse as kick-off approached.
After previously stressing the issue he had with Kevin-Prince Boateng had been resolved, head coach Kwesi Appiah decided to send home the Schalke man on Thursday morning from out of nowhere, just hours before one of the country’s most important games ever. The spat between Boateng and Appiah was not the only distraction before the match versus Portugal, though, as Sulley Muntari was sent home as well after allegedly attacking a team official.
Needless to say, the Ghana players were unable to shake off what had happened in the build-up to the game. Despite a strong spell in the second half, Portugal proved to be too strong over 90 minutes, recording a 2-1 win to end the Black Stars’ World Cup dream.
Thursday’s events off the pitch are bound to have consequences for the men involved and it’s not out of the question that several players will retire from international duty after a disappointing tournament.
Ghana will have to wait four more years for another chance to make an impact at the biggest stage, but they have already missed out on a huge opportunity to go far at the World Cup. That chance was now.