The constellations are going to have to pick sides today as the Stars and Stripes battle the Black Stars to see who progresses to the next round. You would think stars that are black will be dulled by color but when the hopes of an entire continent rest with you, the light does have a way of piercing through and shine the Black Stars do.
The Stars take to the field today wearing their red with yellow striped jerseys. Four years and four days ago, it was much the same. If you believe in superstition, good omens or “sangomas”, or just plain repetition, the good omens must have started already. When we played the good old US of A in Germany we wore the same jerseys for the first time in that tournament and beat them. Today, for the first time in this year’s competition, we will wear red and yellow. Then, we were an unknown quantity that shocked the world by getting into the second round. Now, we are an overachieving squad without our best player Michael Essien that has the chance of getting into the quarter-finals, a story line many an African would be relieved by.
Of course some in the US media have taken it to the next level by situating Ghana as the underdog that stands no chance. Others are already looking ahead for a ‘likely’ US run to the semi-finals. The opinion of two men. But don’t you get the sense since the pairings were finalized that the Black Stars should not bother to show up? Then again, that is what being stats and rankings-crazed will do to you. A friendly reminder that this is not fussball or paper football. It is why we play the games. If we have learned anything from this competition, it is that underdogs stand as good a chance as any to make history. After all, it takes a 2-1 scoreline to go from riding under greyhounds to being a tournament’s darlings and getting VIP treatment.
For as much as this match has a familiar feel, both teams’ personnel have changed. A glance at the team sheets four years ago shows that some players who were key then are not present or are not as prominent. On that fateful day in Germany we lined up for our group E match with a weaker squad than played against Italy or the Czech Republic. Starters Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari did not play due to suspension. All the 23 players in camp are available for this match with Isaac Vorsah being the main injury doubt.
So, bring out the vuvus, expect a cagey well-played game and pray for a Ghana result.
Go Black Stars.
Correction: The Black Stars wore red jerseys with very little yellow on them in 2006. The new design makes yellow more prominent and is not the same as that four years ago.