Africa, Sport

Ghana defeats faintly suicidal Serbia, earns first African victory

By Andy Rice 13 June 2010

Pretoria’s Loftus Versveld saw the Black Stars play a tough game against determined opponents and make us all proud with their 1:0 victory. They are now well on their way to the next round.

The game was tough: Serbia sports probably the best defence in Europe, led by Man United’s Vidic and Chelsea’s Ivanovic. Yet, the Ghanaians were more determined and it appears that they wanted the win more than Serbs. Probably the fact that the whole of Africa was cheering for them and willing them on helped.

It was a game of soccer that would have been enjoyed the most by professionals: A game of chess combined with the game of poker, with high stakes that, more than anything, demanded concentration and discipline from both sides.

The fact is, both sides are good, well-prepared and tough teams, and it is almost sad they had to meet so early in the tournament. At the end, Ghana was the more disciplined and willing team. Serbia hit the self-destruct button not once, but twice: First, when central defender Lukovic, who already had a yellow card, couldn’t resist the temptation of holding his opponent; and second, when Kuzmanovic needlessly handled the ball in the penalty box, thereby handing the win to Ghana.

The game was deliciously poised for the most of it and it could have gone either way. But, overall, Ghana fully deserved to win and is now looking forward to playing Australia, while the Serbs will have to attempt to salvage their World Cup hopes against the Germans, probably the last team one would want to play when your back is to the wall.

Starting line-ups

Serbia: Vladimir Stojkovic, Aleksandar Kolarov, Neven Subotic, Nemanja Vidic, Branislav Ivanovic, Dejan Stankovic, Nenad Milijas, Milan Jovanovic, Milos Krasic, Marko Pantelic, Nikola Zigic, Aleksander Lukovic

Ghana: Richard Kingson, John Pantsil, John Mensah, Abdul Rahim Ayew, Isaac Vorsah, Kwadwo Asamoah, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Hans Sarpei, Prince Tagoe, Anthony Annan, Asamoah Gyan

Man of the match

Asamoah Gyan

First half

  • 10th second: Pantelic tries from 45 metres. Hmm. Rather optimistic.
  • 2nd minute: Good cross by Ghana, deflected by central defenders, then good volley from Annan. An encouraging start, after the Slovenian and Algerian mind-numbing affair.
  • 3rd minute: Good attack from Tagoe results in a free kick from 20 metres, which was harmlessly sent over the crossbar.

Ghana looks good in the opening minutes. Their passes are precise and purposeful. As the game approaches its 15th minute, the rhythm slows down, with both teams settling into the game.

  • 15th minute: Great cross from Asamoah gets intercepted in the last moment by Zigic. Serbia is on tenterhooks.

Ghana’s players appear stronger and more precise than the Serbs, who battle to retain the ball. Ghana is definitely the more impressive team in the beginning part of the game. The Serbian attacks are mostly weak; their crosses are aimless and reach no one. (Serbian centre-forward Zigic is the tallest player at the World Cup.)

  • 18th minute: Zigic gets his first yellow card, for a cynical foul on Ghana’s Ayew.
  • 21st minute: Ghana’s cross is intercepted, not very convincingly, by Stojkovic. He might be Serbia’s weakest link.
  • 25th minute: Ghana’s first yellow card goes to Vorsah for fouling Zigic from the back. He will have to watch his tackles for the rest of the game.

Photo: Ghana’s Isaac Vorsah kicks the ball near Serbia’s Marko Pantelic (R) during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

  • 29th minute: Ghana concedes way too many free kicks in dangerous positions. Kolarov’s left-footed shot was not far off the Kingson’s gates.
  • 30th minute: Pantelic’s shot hits Kingson’s side netting. The Serbs now appear to be growing in confidence and getting back into the game.
  • 35th minute: Supporters for both teams appear slightly bored, and provide their own entertainment in the form of the Mexican Wave.

Thankfully, both teams commit players in numbers, especially from the dead-ball situations. They appear genuinely committed to winning this game.

  • 39th minute: Stankovic’s simple shot bounces off Kingson’s hands in Robert Green fashion. Is that Jabulani ball exacting its revenge on another goalkeeper for being badmouthed by the keepers’ guild?
  • 44th minute: A promising Asamoah shot throws Stojkovic in panic, but not much more.

First half over. The Serbian defence was way too tough for an Essien-less Ghana and the Serbian offence was more or less non-existent. The game is yet to produce any moments of real drama, even though the players cannot be blamed for not trying.

Second half

  • 46th minute: Lukovic uncharacteristically loses the ball, then apologises to his team mates. Strong defence by the Serbs. Offensively, they pretty much suck today.
  • 49th minute: Jovanovic gets plenty of space on the left side of the Ghanaian penalty box, but somehow manages to shoot AWAY from the goal. He’ll probably blame Jabulani.
  • 51st minute: A Ghanaian brass band is touring the circumference of the stadium, in an effort to perk up the players and deal with personal boredom.

Jovanovic, who will probably play for Liverpool next season, looks the best of Serbian crop. His footwork is nimble and he is the only player who’s troubling the Ghanaian defenders somewhat.

  • 56th minute: Ayew makes a good run, but fails to trouble Stojkovic, who is yet to be tested today.
  • 58th minute: Pantelic inexplicably becomes the last player in front of Kingson only to pull the ball 20 metres back and onto the foot of Ghana’s defender. Only seconds later, Zigic, alone in front of the goal, miscues Pantelic’s. The first small cracks start to appear in Ghana’s defence.

Serbia’s Aleksandar Lukovic receives a red card from referee Hector Baldassi of Argentina during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Ghana at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

  • 60th minute: Good header from Asamoah, after the long throw-in, ends just missing Stojkovic’s post. First real mistake by the Serb’s defensive four.
  • 62nd minute: In the first Serbian change, Milijas is replaced by Switzerland-born Kuzmanovic.
  • 70th minute: As the game slows down considerably, Serbian coach Antic replaces the tall-guy Zigic with a reasonably-sized Lazovic, in an effort to speed up his team’s attack and break the stalemate.

The Serbian defence appears to have succeeded in pushing the Ghanaian attack away from its penalty box, which frustrates the Black Stars quite a bit.

  • 74th minute: Serbia’s Lukovic gets a red card after holding the Ghanaian attacker. He feels hard-done by. This could be the major problem for the Serbian team in the closing minutes of the game, as Lukovic and Vidic are probably the best defensive option in the Europe. In response, Antic pulls out the winger Jovanovic for another central defender, Subotic. Anxious times for Serbia.
  • 80th minute: The anticipated frontal attack by Ghana fails to happen. In fact, Kingson had to produce the save of the match to stop Krasic’s shot from 12 metres. The Serbs still have some zest in them. Vidic heads the ball over the crossbar from the resulting corner kick.
  • 82nd minute: Ghana does not appear to know how to use its numeric advantage. What’s more, Ivanovic misses Ghana’s goal by inches in a counter-attack.

Photo: Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan scores from a penalty kick past Serbia’s goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic during their 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

  • 83rd minute: Penalty for Ghana! Kuzmanovic clearly handles a most innocuous ball in his penalty box. Gyan scores from the spot, and Ghana now appears to be on its way to win.
  • 86th minute: The Serbs come back into the game with renewed urgency. The closing minutes of this game will finally be interesting.

Photo: Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan celebrates scoring a goal during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Serbia at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

  • 90th minute:The Serbs do not appear to have enough fire power to trouble Ghana.
  • 92nd minute: Gyan hits the Serbian upright from a perfectly executed counter-attack. The Serbs are now pretty much gone.

Photo: Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan hits the post during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Serbia at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

  • 94th minute: It is all over, Ghana wins!

By Branko Brkic

Main photo: Ghana’s goalkeeper Richard Kingson celebrates victory with his teammates after their 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Serbia at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

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