Ghana 'is a World Cup team'

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic offers no excuses for his team’s first-round exit from the African Nations Cup.

“Zimbabwe played better. It’s that simple,” the Serb said after the Black Stars lost 2-1 in the final game. “Maybe today we didn’t play as you would expect, but Ghana is a World Cup team and they [can offer] more than the level they showed today.”

His job now is to get Ghana’s absent world-class players—including Michael Essien of Chelsea and Udinese’s Sulley Muntari—fit for the World Cup to face Italy, the Czech Republic and the United States.

“The World Cup is far away, we have time to prepare our team,” Dujkovic said.
“The World Cup is a completely different competition. We’ll be stronger than today.”

Dujkovic has coached Ghana for a little more than a year and is taking the West Africans to their first World Cup in Germany.

“We have to check out some new players,” Dujkovic said. “The World Cup will be very difficult. We have a very tough group: Italy, Czech Republic and the United States are in the top 10 of the world rankings.”

One talent that Dujkovic can’t draw upon is teenager Freddy Adu, the 16-year-old who was born in Ghana and moved to the US in 1997.

The DC United striker is training with the US national team, fighting for a spot on the roster for Germany. He has already declined an invitation from Dujkovic to play for Ghana.

In Egypt, Ghana arrived as contenders but quickly lost hope of bagging a fifth African title.

The Black Stars—named after the star on the national flag—lost their opening game to Nigeria and defeated Senegal before being beaten by Zimbabwe. They missed qualifying from group D on goal difference.

Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who travelled to Africa to watch Ghana, said: “They did not show their best ... and I am sure that they will look different in the World Cup in Germany.”

The US also scouted Ghana, sending assistant manager Curt Onalfo to watch every match involving Ghana.

Ghana captain Stephen Appiah, from Turkish defending champion Fenerbahce, emerged as the team’s most influential player on the pitch, while goalkeeper Sammy Adjei also excelled.

The 18-year-old Prince Tagoe, who signed with Saudi club Al Ittihad after abandoning a deal with Bundesliga side Mainz, was alone in his team to find space against Zimbabwe amid some tight marking.

Ghana scored twice in Egypt, through Baba Adamu and Matthew Amoah, and conceded four goals.

Amoah missed the final game through injury, while speedy midfielder Laryea Kingston was suspended after being sent off against Senegal.

“Our main problem is goal scoring, yes,” said Dujkovic. “We have to make some changes up front and try new things.”

AS Roma defender Sammy Kuffour said the African Cup flop had hurt national pride, especially with a loss to geographical rivals Nigeria.

“I don’t know how we lost that game. It’s killing me,” Kuffour said. “I am very sad we didn’t go through. People in Ghana, everybody, is crying. I talked to my wife and she said everyone is down.

“But we have a chance to go to the World Cup. So maybe all the great players will come, so we have a great and wonderful team.”—Sapa-AP

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