19 June ~ This is the one. After a disappointing few days for African football that saw both Nigeria's and hosts South Africa's chances of progressing from the group stage fade away, Ghana now find themselves cast in the role of the continent's World Cup standard bearers. A dramatic late 1-0 win over Serbia in the Black Stars' opening game has given Milovan Rajevac's side a golden opportunity to virtually seal their place in the knockout phase. A win against Australia and Ghana are all but through.
The mood in Ghana is electric. Celebrations erupted nationwide after the win over Serbia. Fans poured onto the streets of Accra to celebrate and impromptu street parties broke out all over the country. A big screen in Nima, one of Accra's poorest areas, brought thousands of supporters together, and after the win a carnival broke out in Osu Oxford Street. Revellers were able to celebrate "until deep into the night" said party organiser Jones Oppong. Thousands took her up on that offer.
The performance against Serbia has given every Ghana supporter reason for optimism. The team were compact, focused, determined, disciplined and, under the leadership of the increasingly popular Rajevac, tactically astute. Hopes are that a similar display in Rustenburg should see off an Australia side humbled by Germany.
Rajevac has moved to dampen the huge groundswell of optimism, however, warning the team against complacency and playing up the Socceroos' threat. "Their performance against Germany did not show the real picture. They can do much better," said the Serb, who had a difficult time balancing coaching duties with Ghana alongside national allegiances against his country of origin in the opening game. "I am 100 percent Ghanaian," Rajevac stated before the Serbia game, but his uncomfortable demeanour when Ghana scored told a tale of conflicting emotions.
The game has been described by the Ghanaian media as a "moment of destiny". With the mood in the Ghana camp positive, players on form and Australia missing a key man in Tim Cahill, this seems like a golden opportunity for Ghana to secure their progression through a very tough group. "The high level of morale runs through every single player in camp, and one can expect nothing but another excellent performance if they are to translate their words into action," wrote William D Ezah, a columnist for GhanaWeb covering the Black Stars in Pretoria.
Expectations are high and most envisage a straightforward win against Australia. Over-confidence might be cause for concern, but Rajevac has acted wisely by publicly moving to keep feet on the ground. Jonathan Fadugba