By RON FANFAIR
Ghana is the only African team to achieve a win after the opening matches in the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa.
The West Africans shut out Serbia 1-0 on a penalty from Asamoah Gyan who dedicated the victory to the African continent staging soccer’s quadrennial showpiece for the first time.
“Every African is behind us,” he said. “I salute all you guys. We won this match for you. This is all I have worked for and to be man of the match is fantastic.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Ghana’s coach, who is Serbian.
“Of course for me personally in my job, this is a great victory, but I am sorry for the Serbian team,” said Milovan Rajevac. “I know many of their players and I could see how saddened they were, but I tried to concentrate on my job and perform my duties in a professional manner.”
Host country South Africa was held to a 1-1 draw by Mexico in the opening match of the tournament while Nigeria and Cameroon fell 1-0 to Argentina and Japan, respectively.
Algeria also lost to Slovenia by a 1-0 margin while the Ivory Coast and Portugal played to a goalless draw.
Didier Drogba, who broke his right arm two weeks ago, returned to action midway through the match for Ivory Coast, replacing Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou in the 66th minute.
The International Soccer Federation (FIFA) cleared Drogba to wear a special protective cast that was examined by the match referee. Portugal’s coach Carlos Queiroz felt, however, that FIFA bent the rules to allow one of Africa’s top players to take the field.
“The FIFA delegates decided that the referee’s decision is final,” he said. “This was a bit odd as far as we were concerned because there are rules and regulations that say, for example, that players cannot play with a string bracelet or a plaster. The solution presented at the meeting was not necessarily one we knew about. I would like to know that all the rules are the same for everybody.”