Thursday 26 June 2014
This was the final round of group matches and some important games for Africa.
Portugal vs Ghana
Ghana was still in with a slim chance of going through and needed to beat Portugal and hope that Germany would beat USA! USA! USA! If the game between Germany and USA ended in a draw then both teams would go through. In the end it was a 2-1 victory for the Portuguese and the commentators were so happy that Cristiano Ronaldo managed to get himself on the score sheet at last. A forgettable tournament for the World Player of the Year as he could have had a hat trick in this game, but his overall contribution to this World Cup has been minimal. The one thing that Brazil 2014 has shown is that countries with real teamwork and unity are prospering and those relying on individuals are struggling.
1. The biggest story heading into this game was that the Ghana FA had to send $3 million (in CASH!) to Brazil before the crunch game with Portugal.
“Players representing Ghana’s national team, also known as the Black Stars, have been waiting for the fees they have been owed since the beginning of the tournament, which started on June 12. The delay has partly been blamed on a dispute over the mode in which the money would be paid out to the players.”
It seems easy enough to blame the players for being greedy in this instance but the Ghana Football Association must also take a large portion of the blame. Everyone seems to focus on the players and how they lack loyalty, but there is often poor administration and promises are made which are not honoured. There have been instances in previous tournaments where money was promised to players but was never paid out. This is the end result. Ghana were not alone in the (lack of) bonuses saga –Cameroon almost didn’t make the flight to Brazil as players mutinied and Nigeria had to get President Goodluck Jonathan to pinky swear bonuses would be paid.
2. The cash story was relegated to the back seat just hours before the Portugal game as the Ghanaian management team booted Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng out of the team.
A statement from the association said: “The GFA has suspended Sulley Ali Muntari indefinitely from the Black Stars with immediate effect.
“The decision was taken in the wake of his unprovoked physical attack on an executive committee member of the GFA and a management member of the Black Stars, Mr Moses Armah on Tuesday 24th June, 2014 during a meeting.
“The GFA has approved coach Kwesi Appiah’s decision to suspend Kevin-Prince Boateng indefinitely from the Black Stars.
“The decision was taken following Boateng’s vulgar verbal insults targeted at coach Kwesi Appiah during the team’s training session in Maceio this week.
“Boateng has since showed no remorse for his actions which has resulted in the decision.”
After the game, coach Kwesi Appiah seemingly left the door open for the two players when he said the pair could be invited back to the national team in the future if they were “performing well”. Another tournament with African teams making an impression for off-field activities. It’s a damn shame.
Germany vs USA
Conspiracy theorists had a great time in the build-up to this game talking about how American coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his German counterpart Joachim Loew would come to a mutual agreement to make sure USA and Germany would ease into the next round. Klinsmann was quick to rubbish such talk:
“ We know a tie gets us through too, which if at the end of the day it ends up a tie because it’s an exciting game and a very close game, so be it. But our goal is to beat Germany.’’
In the end a Thomas Muller goal was enough to give the Germans victory, but USA went through as runners-up due to Portugal’s win over the embattled Ghanaians.
Korea Republic vs Belgium
The Belgian machine rumbled on to the next round with a 1-0 victory over the Koreans. The Belgians finished the group stages undefeated with a 100% win record, but questions remain as they turned in another unconvincing performance. Belgium were impressive in grinding out victory though, as they played most of the game with ten men.
Algeria vs Russia
Following Ghana’s dismal exit earlier during the day, the last remaining African hope was Algeria who needed a draw in their last group game. Russia didn’t seem to get the script, however, and took an early lead through a great header by Kokorin from a brilliant cross from Dmitry Kombarov. All credit to Algeria for never giving up the fight though, and they got their reward when Islam Slimani rose majestically to nod the ball home at the far post. There were joyous celebrations as the Algerian team and their supporters heard the final whistle – Algeria had progressed from the group stages for the first time in their history.