Ghana managed to keep the African flag flying at the FIFA World Cup™ on Wednesday as they scraped through to the second round and halted a string of failures by the continent's teams on home soil.
The day after South Africa and Nigeria bowed out of the tournament, Algeria followed them to the exit door after losing to the United States in the dying seconds of their match on Wednesday. But the Black Stars of Ghana managed to prevent ignominy for Africa in the first tournament staged on the continent by limiting three-times world champions Germany to a 1-0 victory in Johannesburg's Soccer City. Australia beat Serbia 2-1 in the other Group D game, a result which enabled Ghana to stagger into second place in Group D and thus line up a showdown with the United States.
With Côte d’Ivoire requiring an avalanche of goals in their final match to stay in contention, the continent's only realistic hope had lain with Ghana. Failure would have meant Africa had no representatives in the second round for the first time since 1982. A record six teams from the continent took part this time in what is the first tournament to be held on African soil.
Ahead of the game, South African papers had pinned their hopes on the Black Stars with the headline in The Star, a Johannesburg-based daily, urging: "Ghana, Do It For Africa." The same paper had urged South Africa not to allow the disappointment at their own team's exit on Tuesday to become overwhelming and to keep blowing their ear-splitting trumpets.
"The vuvuzelas might lose some of their oomph from today, but we must immediately assume our rightful role -- as warm and wonderful hosts," said the newspaper in an editorial.
Nokuphila Khumalo, who had watched in a Johannesburg fan park as South Africa secured a gallant but ultimately meaningless 2-1 victory over France on Tuesday, acknowledged the volume of support would come down a notch. "This is the last time you'll hear the vuvuzela. But the spirit will go on because South Africans are going to choose other countries," said Khumalo.
Rather than nail her colours to another African mast, the 23-year-old IT consultant said she would now rally behind one of the favourites. "I support Brazil. Many South Africans are going to do the same because the T-shirt is the same colour, yellow and green."