I think one of my lasting memories of this World Cup here in South Africa will be Asamoah Gyan crying as he walked off the pitch at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. Gyan and “The Black Stars” of Ghana had just suffered an agonizing quarterfinal loss to Uruguay on penalty kicks. Gyan had a chance to win the game for Ghana with the final kick in extra time. He lined up for a penalty shot, after Uruguay’s Luis Suarez was sent off for a handball on the line. And, simply based on Ghana’s previous World Cup matches, you had to like Gyan’s chances. He had scored off penalty shots against Serbia and Australia in the group stages. But, Gyan’s shot hit the crossbar, silencing the pro-Ghana crowd of more than 84,000 in the stadium.
I’m sure Gyan wasn’t the only Ghanaian crying after such an excruciating defeat. And, I think there were tears by non-Ghanaians, too. “The Black Stars” had the support of many African football fans at this first World Cup ever held on African soil. Many hoped and prayed for “The Black Stars” ahead of the match against Uruguay, as they wanted to see Ghana become the first African team to advance to the World Cup semifinals. In fact, in Ghana’s capital, Accra, special prayer sessions were held, as fans of “The Black Stars” sought divine intervention.
Asamoah Gyan says he will bounce back, though, and I believe “The Black Stars” will, too. Speaking after the loss, Ghana’s three-time African Footballer of the Year Abedi Pele mentioned how young the team is – the squad’s average age is 24 years and nine months – and how he thinks “The Black Stars” can do big things at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. After making it to the second round at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the quarterfinals at the 2010 World Cup here in South Africa, these tears could very well help “The Black Stars” fuel an even deeper run at Brazil 2014.