Sometimes it takes just one match to transform a career, 90 minutes or more after which no one will ever regard you the same way again. The Round of 16 meeting between the United States and Ghana was just such a game for Andre Ayew, the talented young Black Stars forward and son of African football legend Abedi Pele.
“He was great this evening,” team-mate John Pantsil told FIFA.com after Ghana reached the quarter-finals courtesy of a 2-1 extra-time success. “I’m very happy for him. He’s imposing himself little by little in the team and he’s clearly one of the most talented players in the squad. Today he proved he could carry the whole side on his shoulders.”
Young and confident
A constant buzz of activity over 120 minutes at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Ayew popped up on the left, right and even through the middle after Kevin-Prince Boateng was taken off. Overflowing with the confidence of youth, he even had the audacity to keep sending the experienced Stephen Appiah back into position in the closing minutes.
“He’s a super lad,” added Anthony Annan, speaking to FIFA.com. “Since his arrival in the senior team, he’s always been very respectful towards the older players. He listens to their advice and worked hard to win his place. He’s not the type to always show off, even if he has the talent to justify it. We’re all very happy for him.”
The highlight of his contribution to a top-drawer encounter was undoubtedly the long ball he sent into space for Asamoah Gyan to bury the winning strike. Thanks in no small part to their gifted 20-year-old, Ghana have now become only the third African side in FIFA World Cup™ history to advance to the last eight, following in the footsteps of Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002.
'We fought like lions'
Living up to his reputation for humility, Ayew played down his display when given the chance to air his thoughts. “Of course, I’m happy to have been named Man of the Match in a World Cup game at only 20,” he told FIFA.com. “I think I had a good match, but it wasn’t en extraordinary performance either. The coach [Milovan Rajevac] put his faith in me and it was the least I could do to give everything for him.”
Without waiting for another question, Ayew then made a point of praising what was an excellent team effort. “Everyone played a great match tonight,” he added. “We fought like lions and showed plenty of determination and application. We deserve our place among the eight best teams in the world.” The only negative was the yellow card which will rule the forward out of the Black Stars’ last-eight tie with Uruguay. “It’s infuriating,” he explained. “I’m now hoping my colleagues will qualify so that I can compete for a place in the starting XI for the semi-final. That would be a historic moment. For now, it's a case of job done.” Perhaps, but in helping them complete their task Ayew has evolved from youthful prospect to maturing stalwart.