Black Stars Deal With Muntari Tantrum


Sulley Muntari was in training today and remains part of the team


Just in case you have not heard, Sulley Muntari is reported to have lashed out at Coach Milovan Rajevac for not playing him enough in the game against Australia. The reports further state that the coach says he should no longer be a part of the team. The players came to the aid of one of their own and begged that he be allowed to stay in camp. It appears their efforts and Sulley’s subsequent apology have worked. Earlier today he practiced with the team. The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has since issued a carefully-worded official statement.

It is safe to say that every player on every squad in the world cup would like to feature in a game and better yet directly contribute to the success of their team. There is no better feeling than when you put your stamp on a larger team goal or project. I am sure those of you who have to work in teams in your jobs can relate to that desire. So no harm, no foul there. On one hand he just wants to help the team win and did not feel he was given enough of an opportunity. But as with some of these incidents, it comes down to the mode of communication. 

It is the nature of professional sports that you need a competitive spirit. It takes that spirit to be good and further separates the good from the great. However, in team sports that competitive fire must be channeled for the good of the team. You must rise above your own selfish interests and look at the team first. It’s not easy but it is required if one is to build a winning team.

There are many examples of talented teams that implode because of a lack of that team ethos. The latest case in point is the French who when they say “allez les bleus” must be thinking “a Paris” because that is the only place they are headed as they exit the tournament.

So what does this all mean?

This could ultimately be just what it is. A distraction. A shooting-star like distraction; fleeting and short-lived on our way to glory. It will take on less significance if the Black Stars go through to the second round. This is not the first time there has been a distraction in the Black Stars camp. Leading up to the tournament, while the team was in London, a similar thing occurred but that was soon shoved to the side after our win against Latvia. Before Ghana played its first match, the players’ dissatisfaction with their accommodation could have served as a distraction. It faded from one’s memory after the game against Serbia. In sports, nothing cures ills more than winning. So, if we get a result against Germany pffff, it will just be another ‘such is life’ incident.

As for Sulley, my gut and this report suggest he will play no further part on the field, a situation he may find hard to deal with. He will be allowed to stay on as part of the 23-man playing body but it is hard for me to see how Rajevac continues to trust him both on and off the field. Having said that, things change fast around here with injuries and you just never know.

However, if Ghana bow out in the first round, you better believe there will be an avalanche of criticism right or wrong heading his way. People instinctively look for blame and since he has a trail of incidents behind him, he will be an easy target for why we did not qualify.

Half for Do


Could Ghana miss out on second round after failing to press advantage?


At the end of yesterday’s game against Australia, the Black Stars sat on top of group D with four points. A quick glance at the standings from all groups in the competition so far will show that thus far only two teams have two wins from two games. This is to say that the world cup is the world cup for a reason. It is not supposed to be an easy tournament. Therefore, we should appreciate where we are in this tournament and take Milovan Rajevac’s words to heart. After the game he said, “the result is quite good.” He added that “we would be in the same position even if we won,” as we would have had to get a result against Germany in the last game. 

And given the chances that Australia had getting to the end of the game to win, he may be right that this was a good result. In many respects we were fortunate not to have lost. Also, as this writer notes, this may prevent us from taking the Germans for granted. So, all in all, good if not great. 

But my oh my, what a missed opportunity?  “We blew it! We let them off the hook!” is what I and probably most Ghanaians feel and want to scream right now.  We had an opportunity to join those elite teams who have six points and be in a stronger position with regards to qualifying to the next round. In recent memory two wins usually takes you through to the next match.

So where did it all go wrong?

From a karma point of view, maybe the signs were there before the match when it was announced that our two central defenders who were so effective in dealing with the Serbs were out injured. I was concerned not because I thought the replacements were in of themselves bad but because it usually takes time for central defenders to develop an understanding and this was definitely a setback.

Overall, I thought the replacements did well but for two mistakes. Jonathan Mensah lost the ball after dwelling on it too long in the last ten minutes. Lee Addy also had his moment in the first half and got cautioned for a needless tackle. Yet it is too easy to say that happened because of inexperience. After all, in the Serbia match, the ‘experienced’ defenders also had some shaky moments. It is easier to focus on those shaky moments in a match we probably should have won than in a match we actually won. But I thought they performed creditably and can only get better going forward. If for nothing at all, they gained some valuable experience to deal with the Germans if either or both John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah’s injuries prevent them from facing Germany. Jonathan Mensah after the game said, “it was my biggest moment and I think I did my best.” I couldn’t possibly argue with that. 

Where the game was lost was in the second half when our players started playing ‘hero football.’ Everyone of them wanted to be the hero and match winner. That meant shots from outside and players taking on defenders in areas of the pitch that if they lost the ball the Australians could have capitalized. They lost their identity of being a pass first, patient build-up team and went for the killer pass or killer shot. Now, I admire players who want so desperately to win and are trying everything they can. But when it happens out of the context of what you set out to do, it can lead to the kinds of breakdowns that allowed Australia to seize the initiative and almost go on to what would have been a famous victory for them and an embarrassing defeat for the Stars. 

Another area I thought the game was lost was in the substitution pattern. I agreed with the timing of the Prince Tagoe change. He didn’t have as much energy down the right flank as in the first game. But I thought we would bring in Samuel Inkoom to both provide defensive balance and a forward thrust. Inkoom provides the running and crossing down the flank that I thought we missed. I also thought that around the 75th minute mark our team began to lose some direction and could have used the experience and ability of someone like Stephen Appiah. In the first game against Serbia, when we were losing the initiative to the Serbs and they were on the ascendancy, I thought Appiah brought back that calmness and direction. He could have done the same in this game. I didn’t really disagree with the Matthew Amoah change as I thought it was positive. I also think Amoah plays better when playing with another striker. However, bringing him on so late in the game I am not sure what his impact would have been. It was a decision which Milo explained was because with two strikers there was more of an opportunity to be broken down defensively. 


Here are a few things of concern. 

1. We have not scored from open play, a point this article makes. What happens if we do not get a penalty?

2. We seem to switch off at key moments in a match. Coach Rajevac always talks about needing maximum concentration but in our two matches we have lost concentration at key moments in the second half.

3. Ze Germans will be rueing their missed opportunities against Serbia and will be hungrier for success. Can we hold them off? 

4. Considering the hits our defence is taking John Pantsil’s injury at the end of the game is worrying. The last thing we need is for injury to take our starting right back. Again, this is not questioning Samuel Inkoom’s ability. I think he is a fine right back and probably has every right to start a match. The issue is that after two games these players are building a rhythm. It becomes familiar to them. Putting a young player in in what is a pivotal game against one of the top sides in the world is not exactly what you bargain for heading into the world cup.


1. Dede Ayew continues to emerge as one of our most dependable players. He has for two matches in a row played with energy purpose and a hunger that is infectious. Yesterday, the coach used him all over the field as he tried to unlock the Australian defence.

2. Jonathan Mensah and Lee Addy gained a wealth of experience and hopefully confidence because like it or not, John Mensah’s injury worries are still present and we need to think of suitable replacements. For Jonathan especially, this must have been an interesting challenge as he had not played in the African Nations Cup. 

3. As bad as we feel this morning, we must bear in mind that we did not lose. We got a point and have as good a chance to qualify as anyone. With the right tactics, belief and a little luck we are in the second round.  

We still have all to play for and hopefully that provides the necessary motivation for the boys to give off their best and get a result.

Opponents Watch: Australia


Aussie fans will be hoping Harry Kewell can deliver them from German misery


Forget everything you saw from the Australians in their match against Germany. That is not who they are. I watched at least two trial matches in the run up to the Cup and the way they played against Germany does not reflect their true character.

First of all, Germany may be one of those teams whose offensive approach would be the perfect foil against the Aussies. Check that. The way the Germans played they would make light work of just about half the teams in the tournament!!! Ghana is not Germany. We play a much more deliberate and patient passing style and eschew the kinds of quick direct movements the Germans employ. And while our passing was good against Serbia I doubt we are going to have 91.7 percent passing accuracy as the Germans had against the Aussies. What that means is that we are probably not going to create as many clear cut chances as the Germans did in their match. That said, the Germans showed enough holes in defence to encourage the Ghanaian forwards. 

It was as though the Aussies came out to show the world that they belonged on the same field as the Germans. They don’t and quite frankly I was surprised at how open they were willing to be. Watching them before the tournament I thought they would play a bit more conservatively and try and counter-attack but in the match against Germany they didn’t quite do that and as a result they fell apart. 

The Aussies that I am familiar with play a fairly compact game with long balls to strikers like Joshua Kennedy and flank play their preferred mode of attack. Their flank play will be even more critical since their best player Tim Cahill is out for this match. They will miss his thrust down the middle. There is talk of Harry Kewell starting this match and he may well provide some of the width that was missing in their first game. I thought their height might trouble Ghana but after watching John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah play giant Nikola Zigic out of the match that should not be a problem.

The one thing I would say is Australian teams and their sports stars always seem to show heart. From tennis stars Leyton Hewitt to Pat Rafter to cricketers like Shane Warne, they never quit. You have to beat them. This will be especially so after losing so badly to the Germans.

Ultimately though, I am hoping all this analysis is pointless. If the fans that showed up in Pretoria show up in Rustenberg and are reinforced by the fans that have recently been airlifted from Ghana, and we all do our cheering best, the atmosphere should be able to lift the players to a win. I know fans don’t play football but the energy for our first match was such that if you were a player and you had any doubts before the match, the support took over. Dede Ayew testifies to that.

Show Some Love


New Game Day Design


Ghana’s next game is tomorrow against Australia and we are already in game day mode. We want to rally support online for the Black Stars. Therefore, for the Ghana game tomorrow, I am using the new graphic you see on the blog as my profile pic on facebook and twitter. You should too, and get your friends to do the same. Join us as we plaster this all over Facebook, twitter and all social networking sites and make this go viral. Download the image here. Go Black Stars. Also, on Saturday, look out for the much-promised freestyle from Obrafour. Live and direct at

Memories of Painful Defeats


Fans of Bafana Bafana had a rough evening against Uruguay


Yesterday was a painful day for many a South African as they crashed to a harsh 3-0 defeat to Uruguay. I missed much of the match as I was returning from Durban after watching Spain vs. Switzerland (Thankfully, I saw the pivotal penalty decision and the rest). The Spanish fans in Durban had just felt similar pain earlier on in the day with a shocking loss to Switzerland. The Swiss decided to relinquish their “neutral” status in time to prevent Spain from starting off a tournament they are favored to win.

But as for pain, if you are a football fan, you have felt it at one time or another and I have been there before. It is par for the course. My first real world cup memory was the 1990 world cup where Roger Milla shot to iconic status around the world with his shaking waist and timely goals. At that point, I thought everything should go the way of the team you support. I guess it’s no different now but then was different. When Cameroun lost to England, I was crushed. At the time they were the ones carrying Africa’s torch and I felt as Camerounian as the players. I think I would have been sad anyways if they lost but it was the way they lost. I came up with all sorts of conspiracy theories to explain why they did but they mainly rested on the whistle of the referee. 

It is why I can identify with a local newspaper’s headline “Forlan, one-eyed referee and timid Bafana defer SA’s Dream.” One-eyed referee  is generous compared to the standard I established in 1990. To me, the referee on that day was simply “blind, a cheat and on thoroughly on the side of England.” South African coach Carlos Alberto Parreira must have gone to the same school I went to because he was scathing in his attack on the referee. In the heat of the moment and in the aftermath of a bitter defeat you should be forgiven for childish reactions. 

But that’s football isn’t it? You ride the highs, try to forget the lows and prepare yourself for the next one.

The morning after the day after


Black Stars stand united at half-time of Ghana vs Serbia


Still savoring the Black Stars victory? After watching Cameroon blow an opportunity to start off its competition by giving Africa its second victory, who could blame you?

The Black Stars win over 15th-ranked Serbia was impressive not just because of the reputation of their opponents but for the way the Stars played. The team that started the last friendly match against Latvia was the one that started against the Serbs save Richard Kingson, Hans Sarpei and John Pantsil. That means this was only the second match that the core had started together. In that game against Latvia it was clear there was some chemistry. They passed well and they defended well.  But the problem they faced was they could not find the net despite their dominance. 

In the game against Serbia, it was clear that the starting 11 had built on the chemistry and that the performance against Latvia was no fluke. They passed well, and attacked through the middle and on the flanks and above all played with an energy that was only matched in the stands.

The Stars started out positively and in the first 20 minutes controlled the game especially in midfield. Kwadwo Asamoah had some deft touches to create space and won a couple of free kicks in dangerous positions that we failed to capitalize on. As dominant as we are in possession sometimes in these games, we are not opportunistic enough when presented chances and this game was no different. Yet, the only way you could see Serbia punishing the Stars was through a defensive mistake or from a set-piece where the tall striker Nikola Zigic would take advantage. It did not happen.

The Serbs decided that the best way to attack was to bypass the midfield and insisted on launching passes from defence directly to their strikers either to feet or into space. Our defenders coped with it fairly well with the only blemish being Isaac Vorsah’s yellow card in the first half for an unnecessary and dangerous tackle. The defence led by captain on the day John Mensah was helped by a collective willingness to be disciplined when not in possession but Anthony Annan and Kevin-Prince Boateng’s effectiveness at snuffing out their attacks deserve special mention. 

As the match went on in the second half, it was impossible for the Stars to maintain the pace with which they began the match and the Serbs had a good 15-20 minute spell before and just after they had a man sent off in the 74th minute. In that time, Richard Kingson made a telling point-blank save that kept the score at 0-0. Our pressure and determination to attack and get a win against ten-man Serbia paid dividends with the penalty that was taken by Asamoah Gyan. Gyan had a chance to put the game to rest after a wonderful pass from the “Tornado,” Stephen Appiah but it was not meant to be as the ball teasingly drifted onto the post. Still, a good result and great way to start the competition.

Watching the game live and then subsequently yesterday, I could not help but feel that this team has another two levels it can reach if the flow is not disrupted by injury or suspension. They are only scratching the surface of their potential. I hope the team can keep its focus,  build on this result and not take Australia lightly in their next match. They must come out with the same purpose they showed in the first game. If they do that, we should have six points and should have qualified for the next round come Saturday.  

Individual mentions

When asked to single out the player who was man of the match on the Ghana team, the coach of Serbia, Raddy Antic in his press conference refused to single out any. He said it was a collective victory. I have to agree with his assessment. But in the spirit of collectiveness I will name five players outside of the officially named man-of-the-match Asamoah Gyan that impacted the match. 

Kwadwo Asamoah

Coach Milovan Rajevac explained that Kwadwo Asamoah was substituted because he was not fully fit in the days leading to the match. Milo must have wiped a few beads of sweat off his face when Asamoah was declared fit and with good reason. It is obvious that Kwadwo Asamoah is our new creative force. He is fleet of foot and his skills and general football sense are clear whenever he is on the field. Against Serbia, he started off well drawing freekicks in dangerous positions and providing some good service to the flanks to Dede and Prince Tagoe. He was also on the receiving end of some tough challenges, maybe a recognition by the Serbs that he was the man to stop. His influence waned as the match went on but overall still very effective.

Kevin-Prince Boateng

For a player that does not usually play in the position he is being asked to for Ghana he seems pretty comfortable. Coach Milovan was asked about his play and he said Boateng is “tactically very good.” If that means he plays with energy, tackles quite well, does not find himself out of defensive position very often, adds pace when Ghana is moving forward and has what they call “ball sense” then I can’t disagree with that assessment.

Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew

Dede Ayew in my view was man of the match. He has his detractors with some saying he hangs onto the ball too long and is possibly too individualistic. I have always been a fan of Dede because he is like one of those people in your family who you know has a good heart but sometimes makes one or two questionable decisions. You ignore the bad and cherish the good. In this game, Dede was to be cherished. His overall contribution to the team cannot be underestimated. He tracked back and supported Hans Adu Sarpei so he was not on an island. He went forward and joined the attack putting in a few great crosses while keeping  Branislav Ivanovic busy and unable to bomb forward at will. He also played a more central role during the latter part of the game and helped to settle the game. But above all his spirit is an infectious one. He plays hard and is always happy to give 150 percent. It is hard not to like that kind of player.

Richard Kingson

On his birthday, Kingson showed why he is still Ghana’s number one. We do not get the 1-0 result unless Kingson makes that beautiful point blank save. Simple as that. 

Anthony Annan

Ghanaians always want the flash and skill of a Kwadwo Asamoah but increasingly we all realize that players like Anthony Annan no matter how invisible or unspectacular they are count. He constantly broke up passes, made himself available to the other midfield players as a release for their passes whenever the middle got congested and his own passing ability is underrated but essential for this team.

What a Meal!


Ghanaian fans make their way to the Loftus Versfeld stadium


Pictures and videos help to tell stories. Words may fill the spaces in one’s memory. But to get a collective feel of the atmosphere on the day of Ghana vs Serbia in Africa’s first world cup, you had to be there. It is a fairly straightforward 45 minutes to Pretoria from Johannesburg. We were in Pretoria shortly after 1 pm. We left at 7.30. For six and a half hours, I was immersed in excitement, expectation and eventually unqualified joy. 

Before going to the stadium, we went to the “Ghana Bar” where at any given time there were about 120 people eating, drinking and mostly making noise. This is the kind of place Ghanaians outside gather just to remain close to home. Ghanaians in major cities around the world can probably imagine it. It is a no-frills place about 20 minutes walk from the stadium. In Ghana, it would be your local “spot” where if you asked for some akpeteshie or alomo bitters it would be produced at a moment’s notice. The fufu and the light soup on the other hand would appear after a few drinks but that is the only way you’d enjoy it. The crowd was predominantly Ghanaian but there were also South Africans who had adopted the Black Stars. But if Ghana Bar was the appetizer in a four-course meal then the walk to the stadium was the second course.

And what a course it was. Generally I don’t do brisk 20-minute walks but I could have run a marathon with the crowd on this day. Hundreds of people got out of buses; some with drums and horns while others figured they didn’t need trumpets as their vuvuzelas were good enoug. I have never seen an orchestra and army march side by side but that is literally what it felt like as teeming numbers of fans marched to the designated gates. The energy was beautiful, all harnessed to giving the Black Stars the best they had. It was as though the Black Stars had called in the rear guard and they came just in time. 

Entering the stadium, it was like a giant mural with the predominant colors of red, yellow and green. You could make out oversized hats, scarves, flags, and in a very small part the colors of Serbia. The blue plastic seats of the stadium were there to remind us that this was a football stadium and not an artist’s impression. And the players had not emerged from the dugout yet. But when they did, craziness. The vuvuzelas always seem like they are at one constantly high decibel level on television. In the stadium though, it is clear they don’t have a scale and can go high enough to split all spectators’ ears. This was especially so when the Ghana team emerged, whenever there was a Ghana corner, when the crowd sense Ghana had some momentum or really whenever they felt like it!! And oh as for when Asamoah Gyan scored.

Well that was the dessert and fortune cookie part of this meal. It was the way you feel after your fufu has gone down and you want to sleep but cannot. I wanted to scream loudly but could not. I had tweets to post. The crowd had no such restraint though and the party was just clearly beginning in the stadium, outside it, and from many accounts, all over the world.

A View from Accra of Ghana vs Serbia


There will be a number of guest posts throughout the world cup about various experiences watching Black Stars matches. The first is from Matt Muspratt who watched the Black Stars beat Serbia at a local spot in Kanda, Accra. Matt is an American who has lived in West Africa for the past two years – the last five months in Ghana. He drove by the French Embassy in Washington DC minutes after the 1998 World Cup final; watched Ronaldo’s 2002 final goals on a car-battery-powered TV in a northern Cote d’Ivoire village; and listened to Zidane’s 2006 headbutt on a radio in rural Sierra Leone. He wants to see Rooney, Dempsey, Drogba, or Gyan score in the 2010 final . . . on a flatscreen in Accra.


Fans at a local spot in Accra sing and dance


This morning, when asked who would win Ghana’s opening World Cup match against Serbia, my 13-year-old neighbor shrugged, “Only God knows.” 

All of Kanda, Accra, and Ghana know now: Ghana. 

It was an Ann Arbor college football Saturday morning. Except that it was Sunday, and instead of Michigan maize and blue, it was the Ghanaian red, yellow, and green flying on taxi trunks and SUV hoods. And ex-pats were dropping by Osu to snap up Black Star shirts across from Koala market. 

Yellow and green shirt adorned, I was again at The Curve, a local Kanda spot, for the Ghana-Serbia clash — a critical match between what most believe are the teams who will compete with Germany for Group D’s two knock-out round slots. Winner takes a huge step towards advancing.

And Ghana won. 

The Curve was banging 30 minutes before kick-off. Vuvuzelas of course. And whistles — the guy blowing had his fingers in his own ears. “Do you know what that is?”, a fellow patron shouted. “Yes! Balafon!” A traditional wood xylophone with calabash gourds lashed beneath — two sunglassed guys smashing away. I was making mental notes for my blog: “And then I’ll write about the wooden idol, and how those guys raised it up and poured Club lager over it . . . .”

SuperSport TV panned the Ghana locker room, revealing the clean, folded Black Star uniforms. The Curve erupted: “Appiah! Gyan!” No louder cries, though, than when cameras swept across Pretoria’s  Loftus Verfeld Stadium and hung on a group of Ghanaian fans. All The Curve’s vuvuzelas, whistles, and shouts re-directed to the TV as the Pretoria fans shook a sign reading “Feel It Ghana We Are Here.” 

Some 84 minutes later a Serbian hand ball meant Asamoah Gyan would be going to the penalty spot to give Ghana the win. 

The Curve was at its extreme again. Gyan pounded it home. •


If you are interested in posting your experiences from anywhere in the world, please email Please add some pictures if you can.