At Qatar 2022, Ghana will appear at a fourth Fifa World Cup, hoping for more good memories on a stage where they’ve had lots of fun in the past. Ahead of their November 24 kick-off against Portugal at the futuristic Stadium 974 in Doha, Ink & Kicks reviews the 13 goals already in the Black Stars’ World Cup account.
Today, we’re on Goal #6…
When Ghana went behind to Australia – in Rustenburg, South Africa – after midfielder Brett Holman took advantage of Black Stars goalkeeper Richard Kingson’s fumbling of a rather tame freekick, Ghanaians had every reason to fear the worst.
The team had only gone behind twice before in World Cup games – against Italy and Brazil at Germany 2006, the previous edition – going on to lose both without scoring any themselves.
It wasn’t unreasonable, then, for their compatriots to wonder whether the Black Stars would be coming back this time, from the early setback dealt by Holman’s 11th-minute opportunistic, close-range finish.
They didn’t have to wait too long for an answer; before the opening half-hour was over, Ghana were level.
A corner-kick taken by Andre Ayew was headed clear by the Australian defence, only for the ball to drop right back into Ayew’s lap. The youngster – having already made quite an impression on the global stage, as captain of the Ghana U-20 team that conquered the world only the previous year – was confronted by a couple of opponents, losing possession to one of them.
But Ayew won the ball back with grit, before slipping past the pair of Australians with skill. A low cross – a cut-back, actually – into the box found Jonathan Mensah, who took a one-time shot that looked certain to make him the first defender to ever score a World Cup goal for Ghana.
Mensah’s thunderous effort beat goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer alright, just not teammate Harry Kewell. The forward’s goal-line clearance, at least from an Australian perspective, was all well and good – except for the fact that it was deemed illegitimate.
That intervention by Kewell was with his arm – not allowed in football, on most days – and Italian referee Roberto Rosetti didn’t need VAR (not that it existed at the time) to advise on the decisions that had to be taken as a consequence of that passage of play: penalty to Ghana, red card to Kewell.
The former Liverpool and Leeds United man – known for his immense quality and ability back in the day, but also for his long-running struggle for fitness and consistency – had missed his country’s first match in South Africa, versus Germany, so to last just 24 minutes of the second was just gut-wrenching.
“It’s a shame that it happened that way,” Kewell said afterwards.
“But if you look at the situation, it hit my arm, but it wasn’t deliberate. It was only that I was trying to get my shoulder there. I think the ref made a decision that he can only answer. Unless I actually detach my arm and put it somewhere else, there is no other way I can move my arm.
“I didn’t deliberately go for the hand, I didn’t try and handball it, I tried to use my chest. I was playing by the rules, but the ref saw it another way. He’s probably the only one who did. The guy has killed my World Cup.”
Kewell, in that instant and in hindsight, deserved some pity: he wouldn’t play another World Cup game, with Australia failing to advance beyond the first round at that edition of the Mundial and Ange Postecoglou refusing to take him along to the next.
The Black Stars, though, weren’t inclined to show any more sympathy towards Kewell or Australia than Rosetti did that day.
Gyan, to whom the task of converting the awarded penalty fell, was going through some sort of déjà vu moment. Just days prior, Ghana’s leading striker successfully handled a similar assignment, against Serbia. He summoned, for this latest task, the same composure and decisiveness that served him so well in the last.
If he changed anything at all, it was the direction – low and to the goalkeeper’s left this time, rather than through the right into the roof – but the result was the same.
Enjoying a numerical advantage for well over an hour, the Black Stars could have added to that count. Ultimately, though, they had to settle for a share of the spoils, setting up a thrilling final round of group games that saw all four teams walk the thin line between qualification and elimination.
Notably, Gyan’s goal was the third in succession that Ghana had scored at the World Cup from the spot – there must be a record buried in there somewhere, surely, for those whose interest it is to dig some of these things up – but the country’s next strike would break the mould.
And in some style, too.
Enn Y. Frimpong – Ink & Kicks