RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) — Africa is still at the World Cup party after Ghana realized the hopes of a success-starved continent by reaching the quarterfinals for the first time on Saturday.
The poor showing of African nations had cast a pall on South Africa 2010, with the hosts and four others exiting at the group stage of the continent’s first World Cup.
“We’ve made everybody proud — not Ghana alone, but all of Africa,” said striker Asamoah Gyan.
Asamoah Gyan smashed home the extra-time goal that clinched a 2-1 victory over the United States in the second round, raising the spirits of Africa’s one billion inhabitants.
“Me and my colleagues were very disappointed there were no African teams with us,” forward Dede Ayew said. “Now we are lucky to be here, we must fight, not just for us, but for the other teams that are not here.
“We feel we have a continent behind us and the whole of Africa behind us and that’s given us a lot of energy to fight more.”
And what energy Ghana had. Kevin-Prince Boateng tore through the American defense to score after just five minutes at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, while a compact defense thwarted the American resistance.
While Landon Donovan equalized with a second-half penalty, the Black Stars shone as the U.S. wilted and Asamoah Gyan volleyed in the winner early in extra time.
“In the end we needed strength and we had that strength,” coach Milan Rajevac said. “Ghana is now among the best eight teams in the world.”
And the players see no reason they can’t be the best. First they must conquer Uruguay in Friday’s quarterfinal in Johannesburg.
“After Uruguay we stand a chance of being in the final,” defender John Pantsil said. “Having Africa’s support adds a bit of pressure on us, but we have to put the pressure outside and go outside and play our normal football.”
The signs that Ghana could progress far at the World Cup have been there for some time.
Three of the starters in Rustenburg on Saturday also featured last year as Ghana became the first African team to win the Under-20 World Cup, prevailing over runaway favorite Brazil in a penalty shootout.
And Ghana was only denied a fifth African title earlier this year by Egypt in a tight final in Angola.
“It was important the youth team taking the cup and the whole of Ghana was happy,” Pantsil said. “And since Angola when we were in the final we have shown we are progressing and there is more to come.”
Back home they are ready for more celebrations. On Saturday night, dancing fans swarmed onto the streets, while car horns were honked across the nation.
Abena Serwa, a 34-year-old street vendor, said Ghana had beaten “one of the world’s big powers.”
“The whole continent was looking up to them to show that Africa was not in the tournament just to keep the numbers,” said Mohammed Abu, a 17-year-old celebrating in the streets of Ghana’s capital, Accra.
The elation was witnessed across the continent. Mozambicans celebrated in the streets of their capital, and South Africa’s governing African National Congress issued a statement calling the Black Stars “our pride.”
“We are very confidant that having gone this far, you are indeed heading for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals on our soil,” the ANC said.
Associated Press writer Francis Kokutse in Accra contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.