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Ghana seek to atone World Cup sins

30 January 2015, 16:10

ACCRA - Ghana's national team reached rock bottom with fans after a World Cup debacle in Brazil, but two thrilling victories over Algeria and South Africa at the Africa Cup of Natisons have the Black Stars buzzing again.

After a disastrous outing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, marked by indiscipline, an embarrassing row over appearance fees and a first round exit, Ghana's national football team are hoping to warm themselves into the hearts of football fans once more.

Fans gave the Black Stars the thumbs-down when they let them down in Brazil after raising hopes for another good performance on the world stage.

Indeed, fans booed the team during a 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying match played at their favourite Kumasi Sports Stadium, in central Ghana, compelling football authorities to move the other home qualifying matches to Tamale in the north.

But following the team's progress to the quarter-finals of the 2015 Afcon in Equatorial Guinea from the tough Group C fans are beginning to cheer them once more.

"After their attitude in Brazil, I lost interest in matches of the Black Stars matches," said Kwaku Kumah, a retired nurse. "But now, I think I will watch their matches again."

Also read: Gyan opens up 'Group of death'

Indeed, fans abhorred the loud dispute over appearance fees in Brazil when players boycotted training, and the spectre of boycotting the final match group match against Portugal loomed large.

The persistent demand for their 100,000-dollar appearance fees forced the government to fly to Brazil with more than 4 million dollars in cash, with all the risks, making Ghana the laughing stock at the tournament.

The players also exhibited gross indiscipline, with two key stars -Sulley Ali Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng - being kicked out of camp. The team went out at the group stage at the bottom of the table securing only one point, a 2-2 draw against eventual world champions, Germany. They lost 2-1 to both US and Portugal in the group.

"That was the lowest point for the Black Stars, I think," Kumah said. "They could not have sunk lower. That was a big disgrace they brought to us."

Now, however, fans are rallying once again to the Black Stars, celebrating a 1-0 victory over Algeria and a 2-1 defeat of South Africa after coming from behind.

The 2-1 loss to Senegal, the first Group C match at Afcon, has been forgotten and fans are now looking forward to the quarter-final clash on Sunday with Guinea -a team that was in Ghana's group in the qualifying stage.

Ghana drew 1-1 with Guinea in Morocco (Guinea did not play their home matches in Conakry because of the Ebola virus) and won 3-1 in Tamale.

"We played them in the qualifying matches and we must not take anything for granted," said Kumah.

With confidence returning to the Black Stars, captain Asamoah Gyan has said Ghana's strong mentality can push them on.

"I have played at five Cups of Nations, but this group was the hardest," the Ghana Football Association (GFA) website quoted Gyan as saying after the win over South Africa.

"We were very strong mentally...with this team we can take on anyone in this competition."

The players are also adjusting to their new coach, Israeli Avram Grant, who has already been criticised by some fans for his preferred formation - 3-5-2 - which they say is making the Black Stars "clumsy."

Black Stars captain Gyan, has apologised to Ghanaians at a commission of inquiry set up by the government to investigate the Brazil debacle. But a glorious performance will make the country forget the trauma they put them through at the World Cup.

The Black Stars are very much aware of this and cannot afford to be complacent. Expectations are high and a quarter-final victory over Guinea on Sunday will be one more step towards winning the confidence of fans.

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