Ghana is headed for South Africa

By BASN Wire Services
Updated: September 6, 2009

AFRICA — Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien scored as Ghana defeated Sudan 2-0 in Accra to become the first African nation other than the hosts to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari gave the Black Stars an early lead and Essien added a second soon after half-time, unleashing a drive that flew into the net at the near post.

The result, coupled with closest challengers Benin and Mali drawing 1-1 in Cotonou a few hours before, left the Ghanaian side boasting a 100 per cent record with an unassailable seven-point Group D advantage.

It will be the second successive FIFA World Cup appearance for Ghana, who did best of the five African teams in Germany three years ago by reaching the knockout second round before losing 3-0 to defending champions Brazil.

“It was so important to win, regardless of how we achieved the result. It is still special for us professionals to return home and bring joy to the people of Ghana,” Essien said.

“Teamwork brought us success, as in previous qualifiers. The side did not feel under pressure because we are used to playing in front of packed crowds like the one in Accra tonight.

“The people of Ghana wanted us to win and we did not let them down,” he said. “What a fantastic feeling to be the first African country to qualify for the first World Cup to be staged in Africa.”

Serbia-born coach Milovan Rajevac said: “It is a priceless honour for my players to represent their country and qualify for the World Cup.

This team is very hungry to go to the finals again. My players are aware of what they can achieve and have the quality to go far. I always believed we would qualify and am very confident about the future.”

A quarter of the 32 qualifying nations for the first FIFA World Cup to be staged in Africa are now known, with Ghana joining Australia, Brazil, Japan, the Netherlands, Korea DPR, Korea Republic and hosts South Africa.