Samuel Inkoom believes Ghana can become the first African team to win the FIFA World Cup after beating the USA 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals where they will play two-time winners Uruguay. "We are ready to live the ultimate dream," said the 20-year-old midfielder.
The USA had produced stirring second-half performances to force a draw against Slovenia and a win over Algeria in the group stage, and threatened something similar when Landon Donovan equalised from the penalty spot after 61 minutes in Saturday's second-round match.
But the way Ghana resisted the US surge and went on to grab a winner has strengthened Inkoom's already bristling self-belief. "They are a very good team, the US, for me," he said. "The formation is there, the coach is very good. But we took our chances. That was the difference between us."
It has already been a memorable year for Inkoom. He won the league and cup double in Switzerland with FC Basel, lifted the Under-20 FIFA World Cup with Ghana and was a key part of the young and inexperienced side that reached the final of the CAF African Cup of Nations in Angola in January.
His enthusiasm and self-belief are infectious. As he pointed out after the game, the confidence he expressed then was entirely justified, and he is just as optimistic looking ahead to the quarter-final on Friday. "I told you we were going to win," he said. "I told the coach we would win. I don't think Uruguay will be easy but I think we are capable of winning."
Inkoom was brought into the side by coach Milovan Rajevac to replace Prince Tagoe to play on the right side of midfield, providing cover for John Pantsil at full-back, which in turn seemed to offer a greater balance than Ghana had demonstrated in the group stage.
Certainly centre-forward Asamoah Gyan, who hit the winner three minutes into extra-time was left far less isolated than he has been, as runners broke from midfield to join him. It was from just such a run that Kevin-Prince Boateng gave Ghana a fifth-minute lead as they began with a spell of exceptional football.
"I have a good mentality," said Inkoom. "I work hard. That's why I had a good match. I'm a very good player. If you have the self confidence I believe you can do whatever you want to do. I like to go forward and the coach said I would have freedom to attack. Sometimes the coach plays me right midfield, sometimes right back, and I have always done well there so he knows it's a useful option to have."
Gyan scored the winner with a classic front-runner's goal, outmuscling US captain Carlos Bocanegra - Gyan's friend and team-mate with French club Rennes - before crashing a shot past Tim Howard.
Ghanaian goalkeeper Richard Kinsgon made three fine stops and winger Andre Ayew gave a man-of-the-match performance on the left wing. "You know we have good players," Inkoom said. "The goalkeeper is a very good goalkeeper. Asamoah Gyan, I don't know what to say. He's good striker who can score at any moment."
Inkoom believes Ghana's real strength, though, is the team ethic, something that is obvious from the on-pitch huddle with which they end each half and their evident ease in each other's company. "We are a difficult team to play against," he said. "We are more like family, that's why we keep on winning."