Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ghana 2 Czech Republic 0



Wow.

Ghana's Asamoah Gyan took just 68 seconds to put his country in the lead and Group E was instantly turned on its head. (Are you paying attention, United States?) Ghana then spent the rest of the day beautifully confirming that the shocking early strike was no fluke.

And, good lord, it wasn't. In describing Ghana I can only borrow from the Guiness commercial guys and wildly announce, "Brilliant!" Because that was brilliant.

This was arguably the best game of the tourney so far. Wide open all day long. Back and forth, relentless, end to end. Both teams were none too shy about coming forward with reckless abandon, but Ghana's undeniable brilliance in the second half was beyond sublime and clearly the best soccer played in the World Cup thus far this side of Argentina. Granted, Ghana was playing a man up for the final 23 minutes, but still, it was coming at the Czechs in waves, going through them like a hot knife through butter, and each buildup was better than the last. Sheer genius. Breathtaking.

Czech goalkeeper Peter Cech proved why he's arguably the best in the world by making several remarkable saves to keep his team within a goal, but his Shaka Hislop-like performance came to naught when Sulley Muntari finished the latest magnificent buildup by Ghana with his team's well-deserved second goal in the 82nd minute. Lights out. KO. Finally, an African team had come through with a win, and a shot heard round the world it was.

The funniest part was the Ghanaian fans sprinting back and forth along the front row of the stands. They were loving every minute. When Gyan lined up to take a second-half penalty kick - which he ultimately banged off the right post in a moment that could prove huge if goal differential becomes a factor - Ghana fans were streaming left and right directly behind the Czech goal. I had to laugh and wonder if they were going to disrupt their own man. Which they may have. He missed. Whatever. It was still hilarious.

Most importantly for us Americans, Ghana has done us all sorts of favors. The U.S.-Italy game kicks off in half an hour and a U.S. win would put all four teams at one win, one loss. At this point, the U.S. team has nobody to blame but itself if it can't get a result. A small door has been opened, a gift from the soccer gods given, favors in hand. What will they do? We shall see.

Incidentally, Ghana has a player named Razak Pimpong. Pimpong. Which sounds a lot like 'ping pong' when said by the announcers. When Pimpong made a complete mess of a late breakaway that would have put Ghana up 3-0, JP Dellacamera and John Harkes were beside themselves and you had to wonder if a guy with a name like Pimpong is destined to look the fool. What a name.

Thirteen minutes until The U.S. vs Italy.

It's all come down to this.

No embarrassments, please.

Shock the world.

Just win, baby.

Here we go now.

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