Ghana Bids to Become First African Team Into Semis

Ghana Bids to Become First African Team Into Semis

Published July 1, 2010

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Rival strikers Diego Forlan and Asamoah Gyan are out to help Uruguay and Ghana end long waits at the World Cup on Friday although only one will succeed.

Uruguay will be chasing its first semifinal appearance for 40 years while Ghana is bidding to make history for Africa as the first from the continent to reach the final four.

"We have an opportunity to show to the whole world what we are capable of doing, to get to the semifinal," Gyan said Thursday. "There is no doubt that nobody in Africa is going to support any team other than Ghana. I don't predict but if we work hard we will come out victorious.

"African countries, although we don't have the facilities, we are gifted. We know how to psych ourselves before we play a game so we don't put pressure on ourselves. Our success is down to confidence in ourselves and hard working."

Gyan's three goals have helped Ghana survive a tough group stage and then beat the United States in the first knockout round to reach the last eight. Meanwhile, Forlan has taken advantage of a shrewd tactical switch by wily coach Oscar Tabarez.

The 1930 and 1950 World Cup winner, Uruguay has a solid defense and a three-pronged attacking formation with Forlan playing just behind Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

"I've been chosen to play a bit further back, trying to arrive later on goal," Forlan said Thursday. "If (Suarez) is to get more goals, then so be it and hopefully that helps us go as far as possible.

"All I do is play and try to keep going the same way. Enjoying it, that's all."

Tabarez went to that system after the team labored to a 0-0 draw with France, and the result was two strikes by Forlan in a 3-0 victory over host South Africa. Uruguay also beat Mexico 1-0 thanks to a goal by Suarez, who then netted two in a 2-1 victory over South Korea.

"What's happening to us now is something we had only dreamed about," Tabarez said Thursday. "These players really want to go all the way.

"If we win (Friday) the only (Uruguay) sides that have done more than we have are the great World Cup winning champions. That's why the match is extremely important from the historical point of view."

Uruguay has been forced into a change in defense with Diego Godin ruled out with a thigh injury. But Forlan has recovered sufficiently from a damaged toe and will face the Ghanaians.

"We have to play our style and nothing else," Forlan said. "They (Ghana) are strong and quick, but there is nothing to be afraid of."

Ghana is without suspended players Jonathan Mensah and Andre Ayew but Gyan has recovered from an ankle injury he picked up in the second-round victory over the Americans.

The biggest problem for the last African team left in the competition is the enormous weight of expectations.

"We hoped that there would be more African teams to play in the knockout stages," said South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar, whose team became the first host to go out in the first round. "But I guess the most important thing is to support whichever African side goes forward. Ghana are a quality side, they have some good players and they have the potential."

Rajevac said his team needs to beware Uruguay's attacking threat.

"Uruguay have been very impressive," he said. "They are a South American nation with players playing in the best leagues in Europe. They have to be one of the best teams in the world. They deserve every respect and Forlan is a fine player.

"But we will play the way that has brought us success so far. We are not going to adjust our style and we will try to use whatever weakness we can find in our opponents. What is very important is to be able to change your system as the match demands."

Rajevac guided Ghana to the African Cup of Nations in February and has taken the team to the last eight of the World Cup despite the absence of its best player, Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien, who has been sidelined with a serious right knee injury.

"When I came to Ghana it took a lot of hard work and now, after all this hard work, you can see the results today," he said. "I am very proud of everything we have done in the last two years."


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Written by <P>ROBERT MILLWARD, AP Football Writer</P>


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