Ghana 1-0 Latvia (05:06:10)
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Compare and contrast; 51,760 packed into the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria in South Africa for the opening match of the World Cup against Serbia as opposed to a kick about in Milton Keynes in front of 8,000 against Latvia. Same thing no? The Black Stars pitched up here, trying to have funions 5645 miles from where they possibly should have been. Primarily on a mission to avoid the current trend of getting injured before the greatest show on earthtm.
Latvia for their part had clearly been instructed to only show a passing interest in this game and to only kick heels metaphorically. Aside from an injury to star turn Michael Essien, an alleged assault by Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac on Laryen Kingston at their Parisian training camp and a recent 4-1 defeat to Holland, things had been going swimmingly well for Ghana in the run up to this match.
Faired Inkoom. Arsenal target Anthony Annan and imminent World Cup star Kwadwo Asamoah look on as Samuel Inkoom strikes for home.Sadly inside the ground there was no Ghanaian beer on offer. I was rather hoping to lay my hands on a drop of Star. When it gets hot in Ghana, which is quite often I'm guessing, this crisp and slightly pale lager hits the spot. It promises a million bubbles with every mouthful and I for one would quite like to be the judge of that. I was alerted to this beverage by the lads on the Cup of Good Hop blog. Go and join them in their quest to find 32 beers from all 32 competing countries in the World Cup. It's both informative and funny - what's not to like?
Outside the Stadium:MK - which would appear to be in the middle of nowhere and only has Asda, turgid fast food outlets and an IKEA for company - the first of the afternoons several battles of culture took place. The local stewards were kept busy trying to move on 'unlawful' street vendors who were knocking out Ghana goodies left over from Germany 2006. "Trading standards" barked the jobsworths in orange bibs. "Freedom and justice" retorted the Ghanaians. We all laughed.
For the second English game running I hit the Paul Doyle Guardian jackpot. We have a very unofficial (he doesn't actually know about it) arrangement whereby he writes an actual match report and I get to enjoy the hospitality and make silly notes about irreverent goings on around me. He was quite a find today because there was lots of stuff going on which reduced my partner in crime Stuart Fuller and I to fits of frequent giggles.
To our immediate left in the press box there was a chap shouting screaming and a hollerin into a couple of very old Nokia phones. Mogabe, for it was he, works for Radio Focus. Focus? The bloke was focused alright. He is a bloody legend and if you're reading this at BBC HQ then make this lad part of your 295 team (that is a fact by the way - Ed.) coverage at the World Cup. Maybe substitute him for Martin Keown - nobody will notice.
That was not all that was amusing us, oh no. One seat down from Mogabe sat another hero in the making. Kofi works for the Ghana FA and to my mind has officially the best job in the world. He updates their Twitter feed during matches. Throw to Ghana, Ghana go close but no cigar, Latvia shot, these were the tweets that he was sending in between updating his Facebook status and relaxing. Follow @GhanaFA during the next few weeks, he is going to be one of the stars of the tournament. I want your agent by the way Kofi old chap - see me afterwards.
Next stop South Africa.
With Michael Essien out injured, there is a very real chance for a new African star to be born during the World Cup. I'm going to wager that it'll be Kwadwo Asamoah stepping into his £450 Nike boots. Everything went through Asamoah during this match, he pulled strings, showed of his array of dribbling skills and acute passing that along with Kofi and Mogabe will make him a multi-millionaire this time next year. Loud and clear: Kwadwo Asamoah will be a name you're all familiar with by the time En-ger-land go out on penalties in three weeks time.
Ghana won this particular match 1-0 with a late goal. It was just reward for their fans who'd had the P-A-R-T-Y in full swing all day. They came, they sang, played instruments and ran on the pitch for a joyous and harmless pitch invasion at the end. In return the stewards tried to stop them at their every turn. They frantically waved their arms about, tried to stop them sitting there or standing there. Have you ever been to a fiesta in Accra lads? I don't think so. Fair to say Milton Keynes had never seen the like.
Afterwards a fairly bored looking duo of Prince Tagoe and Asomah Gyan batted away questions from the assembled media alongside Ghana gaffer Milo. In absolute fairness to them, as soon as it ended they came alive and posed for photos and signed autographs for anyone who wanted them. Refreshingly, these lads don't own a pair of billy big boots. The fans and players of Ghana made a huge impression on me this afternoon. I now want them to win the World Cup. Good luck and God bless your homeland Ghana.
Life's a pitch. Ghana fans send their heroes off to the World Cup in style.
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