Posted: 6/27/2010
Title: PHOKENG AWEFUL: USA OUT, AFRICA'S LAST STAND

Blog:                                                                                                                         

     Ten km N W of Rustenburg and our bus arrives at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in the sleepy village of Phokeng. In the mid 18th Century during a severe draught the locals were forced to eat a grass called phoka, hence the name.

     Africa's last hope, The Black Stars of Ghana take on the United States with its many stars and stripes. Its the late game, 8.30pm so I wrap up warm in the chilly air of the Highveldt. Its a multi national audience, with most South Africans supporting Ghana as do most neutrals. I am surrounded by plenty of Americans but also see the colours of nations such as Australia, Peru, Algeria, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Latvia, Philippines, Argentina, England, Germany...

     Most people expected England to be playing Ghana today with USA facing Germany in Bloomy-Bloemfontein on Sunday afternoon, but it confused most pundits and it was difficult to find a central location for fans of USA and England to swap tickets.  I was lucky to obtain a ZAR 1,600 category 1 ticket for ZAR 500 and catch the bus outside Pretoria/Shwane city hall. It's a 2 hour trip on decent highways with 3 toll booths, and we stopped at the Waterfall Mall outside Rustenburg to eat at their huge and varied food court, and use real, clean toilets instead of lining up for stadium portaloos.

     The stadium's grass pitch was again in perfect condition for this round of 16 contest. Ghana were wearing red and yellow wide stripes with USA in all white, A game of three halves maybe. I had seen the Blacks Stars play Latvia in a friendly at Stadium MK north of London earlier in the month and was impressed and thought they would be Africa's best chance. Team spirit, organization, as fast as gazelles, as strong as buffalos, they all looked like black Gerd Muller's if you remember the squat FC Bayern and German striker-built like a refrigerator.

        Kevin Prince Boateng scored the opener after only 5 minutes that left Tim Howard with no chance as the American defence stood standing. The team was good, very good. The second half the Americans fought back but could not create space and open up a tight back line of Africa and were unable to penetrate. They should have brought Bill Clinton down from the VIP seats to the bench. He could teach his fellow country men about penetration.

        In the 61st minute with Clint Dempsey inside the penalty area and ready to strike, he was upended by Jonathan Mensa. Landon Donovan equalised with the penalty off the left post. Game ON.  Unfortunately for him his attack was not responding with Joze Altidore failing to use his size and strength to any effect. The 20 year od is replaced by Hercules Gomez but no improvement.  Extra time for the first time at this World Cup.

     The Black Stars were going down like flies, trying to break up the flow of the game. Hungarian referee Victor Kassai has a good game, but perhaps an extra yellow card for time wasting or feigning injury by the West Africans would be appropriate.  It took a wonder strike from Asamoah Gyan to round Bocanegra and blast home the winner and take Africa's hope into the quarter-finals.  Attendance announced on the scoreboards that are finally working-35,000 but later reduced to 28,000.  Home by 4.00am -and the bus to Bloemfontein leaves at 7.30 am . NO THANKS. Hatfield Square for me.

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