Ghana's midfielder Sulley Muntari (C) celebrates with team mates after scoring the opening goal during the 2010 World Cup quarter-final match Uruguay vs. Ghana on July 2, 2010 at AFP Soccer City stadium in Soweto, suburban Johannesburg. NO PUSH TO MOBILE / MOBILE USE SOLELY WITHIN EDITORIAL ARTICLE - AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP via Getty Images)
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 #9…
Much was said about the Jabulani, the 2010 Fifa World Cup’s official match-ball, long before the competition even kicked off.
And it was mostly the goalkeepers complaining, about the ball’s curvature and its weight and whatnot. Their reviews, needless to say, weren’t very complimentary.
Hugo Lloris (France) labelled it “a disaster”. Iker Casillas (Spain) compared it to “a beach ball”. For Fernando Muslera (Uruguay) – more on him later – it was “the worst ball [he’d] ever played with”.
Yet the outfielders, especially those more accustomed to shooting the ball goal-wards, found the prospect of working with the Jabulani far more exciting.
Sure, like everyone else, these guys had to learn its strange ways first, but, once they’d mastered the Jabulani’s unusual dynamics, they figured out that the ball – for pretty much the same reasons the defensive players found it nightmarish – could produce some quite spectacular goals.
And maybe it did, including – well, depending on who you ask – Sulley Muntari’s brilliant strike against Uruguay, Ghana’s quarter-final opponents, for whom Muslera – mentioned earlier – was in goal.
That World Cup hadn’t gone exactly to plan for Muntari. He’d just had as good a season at club level as any player could ever have in their career, winning the UEFA Champions League as part of a clean sweep of silverware with Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan.
Yet, for disciplinary reasons, he wasn’t even supposed to be with the team that day, much less in the starting lineup.
The intervention — the intense, repeated supplication — of Kwasi Nyantakyi, then president of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), was required to ensure Muntari’s inclusion in the World Cup-bound squad.
Then, at the finals, Ghana head coach Milovan Rajevac’s sparse use of Muntari — preferring to start a young Andre Ayew — apparently didn’t go down well with the Italy-based star, almost resulting in his mid-tournament expulsion (a fate that would befall him, incidentally, at the next World Cup).
Ayew’s suspension for the Uruguay duel handed Muntari the chance to prove he was worth keeping, worth the trouble, and worth more than the bit-part role this former undisputed regular was now struggling to accept.
And he did make quite a statement, didn’t he?
Muntari’s industry was certainly felt in midfield, but his biggest impact came on the stroke of half-time, delivered from the sort of distance that has always been his range. He had to his advantage the element of surprise and, perhaps most importantly, the Jabulani and its unpredictable spin.
Muntari, from 35 yards, didn’t need much else – well, if you like, maybe a little nudge from the commentator, too (not that Muntari could hear him, of course).
“If they’re gonna get a goal, they’re gonna have to get it in the next 20 seconds…,” he said in reference to Ghana, just before Muntari let that wicked left foot of his fly.
The goal ensured that Ghana went into the break on a high, emerging with greater momentum. The story of the remainder of the game – those scarcely believable last minutes, especially – needs no rewatching, for neutrals and for Ghanaian fans.