The competition has come to an end for Ghana and Spain and their budding young stars, so the focus now switches inevitably to future glories. Both teams fielded two challengers for the Gillette Best Young Player award and, although none were able to spare their side from defeat, each of them performed with distinction. To a man, Asamoah Gyan , Haminu Draman , Sergio Ramos and Cesc Fabregas all looked at home in the rarefied atmosphere of the FIFA World Cup Round of 16.
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The first game of the day pitted the world champions from Brazil against Ghana, and the newcomers faced an uphill struggle as early as the fifth minute when Ronaldo opened the scoring. With Michael Essien absent after accumulating two yellow cards, few would have given the Black Stars much hope at that point, but they rallied strongly to put their illustrious opponents under severe pressure.
One man involved in all their good moves was Asamoah Gyan, himself back from suspension, and were it not for some wayward shooting and fine goalkeeping from Dida he could easily have changed the face of the game. As it was, his constant running was highly impressive, particularly along the left channel where he never hesitated to take on celebrated full-back Cafu.
Likewise, Haminu Draman stuck to his task in midfield and was able to unleash a couple of tentative shots of his own (19', 31'). In the final analysis, the Brazilians were simply too strong, but Ghana's promising duo deserve special credit for refusing to give up until the final whistle. They must now say their farewells to Germany, yet they do so with their heads held high. In particular, Modena forward Gyan will take pride in his personal tally of one goal, one assist and eleven shots, including seven on target.
Cesc beaten by mentor Vieira
In the later match, Sergio Ramos put in yet another excellent performance against France, despite the three goals he and his fellow defenders conceded. In fact, not only was he blameless for all the goals, he even came tantalisingly close to keeping two of them out.
Always well-positioned when needed at the back, the Real Madrid man provided tireless support further up the right wing and gave Eric Abidal a torrid evening. Ultimately, it was the French left-back who was celebrating at the end, but Ramos' star has undoubtedly risen as a result of his FIFA World Cup displays.
As for Cesc Fabregas, the Arsenal midfielder enjoyed a starting role after having been sparingly used by coach Luis Aragones until tonight. His appearance set up an intriguing tussle with former clubmate and mentor Patrick Vieira, and it was a contest the latter just about edged. Fabregas was more than a worthy adversary, though, even if he could perhaps have taken more risks going forward. On that score, however, the young Catalonian was far from alone.