Prior to the crucial match between the Bafana Bafana of South Africa and the Blacks Stars of Ghana, the question on the minds of many South Africans was whether the match was going to be one of those in which they would triumph over Ghana? Unfortunately for them it wasn't. And fortunately for Ghana, that match was one of the rare occasion when the Black Stars traveled to a foreign land and beat their team by 2-0 in a crucial world cup match.
The reaction to that loss was that of anger, given that South Africa since 1992 has never lost a world cup match at home. One South African fan told yours truly that he did not believe Ghana won, rather, and in his words, 'South Africa lost the match.
The South African unbelief about a defeat in the hands of the Black Stars stems from the fact that Ghanaians are perennial under achievers, who in 1996 lost 3-0 to South Africa at the FNB Stadium. Strangely at a packed FNB stadium, and in an atmosphere designed to intimidate, it was stars who confirmed their superiority.
Ghana was aided by a fairly large Ghanaian contingent and no doubt turned the stadium upside down. Five clear days after the match, they are still doing a post mortem, to perhaps find out where they went wrong and what to do next to salvage whatever is left of their pride. The coach acknowledged that his plans to focus on Appiah and to stop his insurging runs into their yard failed and cost them dearly. According to him it had never been their plan to set offside traps, and only resorted to offside traps when they found Appiah and Essien too hard and slippery to handle. It was during one of Appiah's runs into the 18 and the failure of the offside trap that caused the goal.
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But the South Africans have not given up the fight yet. They are hoping and praying that Ghana should slip in their last two matches to give them some leeway. They have openly said that if it was possible for Ghana to beat them at home, then Uganda could equally beat Ghana at home. "Football is full of upsets and that is what we are hoping for', says Stuart Baxter. Whether Ghana will live to the billing by keeping their moment is anyone's guess, but the fact is that the South Africans have not yet thrown in the towel. They hope to travel to Burkina Faso and cause a major upset by beating the Burkinabe's, while hoping Cape Verde whom they beat at home either beat Ghana or hold them to a draw.
In the past it was Ghana who did the mathematics, this time Ghana is not the only country. Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon are also facing difficulties in their groups. Nigeria is second in their group after surprised package. Angola held them to one all. Senegal are also second in their group, behind Togo, who are rewriting the history of world qualifications, while almighty Cameroon is finding it tough in their group against La Cote d'Ivoire. The consolation of the South Africans is that should they fail to qualify they will not be the only ceded club to have flopped, but without a fight. These last few matches could see the maneuvering and influencing of referees and that is where Ghana should watch out.