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14.10.2008 Football News

Stars Revive Hope

Stars Revive Hope

Saturday, October 11, will forever be remembered as the day the Black Stars made a final round berth for South Africa/Angola 2010 following a historic trip to Sekondi, akin to Ghana's maiden qualification to the Germany 2006 World Cup in the Cape Verde archipelago on October 8, 2005.

When it mattered most the Stars shone brighter in front of an overflowing crowd at the 20,000-seater Sekondi Stadium to finish tops in Group 5 and secure a place among the 20 elites who will be battling for the five available World Cup slots for Africa.

Thanks to a 3-0 demolition of Lesotho courtesy Sulley Muntari, Junior Manuel Agogo and Matthew Amoah, and a 1-0 home win for Gabon over fierce contenders Libya, Ghana qualified for the final showdown alongside Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, The Sudan, Togo, Tunisia and Zambia.

Surprisingly, 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists, Senegal, Angola who made their debut at the Germany 2006 World Cup, and perennial CAN participants, DR Congo, failed to advance to the last round.

Topping the group gives Ghana the privilege of being ranked among the five top seeds during the final round draw slated for Zurich on October 22.

That means Ghana will possibly avoid heavyweights like Cameroun, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and six-time Africa champions, Egypt, who also topped their respective groups.

That is, however, not to suggest that the remaining 15 teams will be pushovers, especially in an era where there are no minnows in the game globally.

It is against this backdrop that the Stars coach, Milovan Rajevac, has decided to capitalise on tomorrow's international FIFA free day to engage the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in Bloemfontein in an international friendly as part of his team's preparation for the challenges ahead.

The Black Stars are also scheduled to play a yet-to-be-named opponent on the next FIFA free day on November 19.

Tomorrow's game will afford Rajevac the opportunity to assess a few new players, including Black Satellites skipper, Andre Dede Ayew, who returns to the team after the CAN 2008 tournament in January/February.

Ayew, currently on loan with Ligue 1 side Lorient from Marseille, spearheaded the Satellites' qualification for the Rwanda 2009 Africa Youth Championship following a 1-0 win over The Gambia in Banjul last Sunday.

Another surprise inclusion in the team for the South Africa game is Holland-based Kwame Quansah who has been knocking hard at the Stars' doors for some time now. The Heracles Almelo midfielder makes a maiden cap alongside stout defender, Isaac Vorsah, who features for newly promoted Bundesliga side, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

Another player who is expected to make a return into the team is Kumasi Asante Kotoko's prodigal son, Kojo Poku.

The clash will be the first between the two sides since Ghana beat South Africa back-to-back in 2005 on their way to their first-ever appearance at the Germany 2006 World Cup.

Story by Samuel Ebo Kwaitoo