USA – Ghana Recap (1-2 AET)
Woke up at 6 AM because Alex forgot it was Saturday and had factored in an extra hour for Joburg traffic. Leaving at 7AM to Kroonstad the roads were perfectly clear and Alex could actually go the speed limit of 120 Km. In addition, we were able to see the beautiful sunrise over the city.
We arrived at the KFC in Kroonstad just after 9 AM, expecting to wait an hour for the English to arrive, but just as we started to take out muffins and yogurt for breakfast the two young English guys from Hodge Podge Lodge pull up. Alex and I were both surprised to see them thinking it was quite a coincidence that they should pull into the same KFC as us, but since we have had a few of those by chance meetings with people on this trip it wasn’t too weird. When we saw them get out of the car with tickets in hand that is when we realized that this was England Alex. The last few days Alex and I had it in our head that England Alex was the older gentleman that we met at Moonlight Backpackers!- we were mistaken. We swapped tickets and wished each others teams good luck before getting on the two lane road to Rustenburg. Despite being pretty sure we had exchanged tickets with the correct people we hoped that at 10 we wouldn’t get a call from the other English guy wondering if we were on our way.
After our long morning in the car we stopped off at the Waterfall Mall to walk around and stretch. Kickoff for the game wasn’t until 8:30 pm so we had time to kill before we needed to drive to the park and ride.
As we made our way through the mall it was clear who was the favored team to win this evenings match and it wasn’t the US. For the first time since the beginning of the World Cup, Ghana flags and jerseys were prominently displayed in the shops. In addition, many people who only a week ago were sporting Bafana Bafana had ditched the green and gold for the Black Stars apparel. In the mall and out in the parking lot we were stopped several times by England fans inquiring whether we needed tickets to the match. Apparently a large number of them believed England would be making first in their group and now were desperate to rid themselves of the tickets.
Not too hungry, but wanting to eat something before heading to the stadium we went to the one place that is in almost every town in South Africa: KFC. It was only the second time in my life that I had ever eaten KFC, but it seemed sort of fitting to eat at an American establishment before such an important match for American soccer.
When we arrived at the infamous “park and walk” of Rustenberg we were given an orange colored slip with information about where we parked and how to catch the buses back after the match. It appeared to be more organized then the last time, but after the match would be the true test.
Upon arrival at the stadium it clear that US supporters were greatly outnumbered. Not only were Ghanians and South Africans cheering for the opposing team, but all the English who decided to keep their tickets were making noise for the Black Stars. Alex and I were surrounded by Ghana supporters, which I presume was the experience of most of the American fans, so any chants of USA! USA! were drowned out by the vuvuzela and later by “USA is going home”. The atmosphere at the stadium was much more conducive to a Ghana win, but US team had been in the same situation before at this very stadium when England was the favorite and had come out better then expected, so winning wasn’t impossible.
I’m not going to bother with the technical details of the match since most of you already watched it on ABC or ESPN, but let me tell you when Donavan scored that goal it was the first time and only time that US fans could really be heard in the stadium. It put goose bumps on my arms to hear my fellow Americans shouting support for our country. We had hope. Going into overtime was the most stressful 30 min of life. I wanted so badly for the US to win, but when Ghana scored the second goal I was devastated. The US team had come back from being 2 goals down in the match against Slovenia and I wanted to believe that was just as possible here, but I was mostly just trying to mentally comfort myself.
When the final whistle blew the Ghana supporters went wild!! Alex sat quietly.
I thought that when the US lost that I would cry, but no tears came. The truth is I had very mixed feelings about the result. I was sad and disappointed because I really wanted the US team to advance, but at the same time I was proud of the fact that we came in first in our group and made it to the second phase. We defied the expectations that most people had set for our team and that is an achievement that should be commended, especially since we were not going to realistically win the World Cup this year. Anyone who saw how we played most of our games could tell you it was not our time to win, but I hope that with the largest number of viewers ever tuning in watch US soccer it will draw attention to the future potential of our team. A lot can happen in four years, maybe 2014 will be our year.
Ghana was my first experience of Africa. It is where I fell in love with the people and the beauty of this vast continent that has continued to draw me back. Ghana holds a very special place in my heart and having to watch them play the US was not easy. I wanted my country to win, but I am still happy that Ghana won. After five African countries, including South Africa, went home from the group stage all of Africa’s hopes were on Ghana. It would have been hard to be the team that smashed the entire continent of Africa’s World Cup dreams.
Our trip back to the car was not made any easier with the “better organization”. I think walking and waving down a taxi again would have been a better option then standing squished together like cattle waiting 50 minutes for a bus. Once we got back to the car we waited probably another hour or so before we could get out of the parking lot. The N4 which is the main road back to Joburg was bumper to bumper traffic, so we consulted the GPS for an alternative route on a two lane road. Alex was exhausted from driving all day and probably a little depressed from the game, so I drove. It was the first time I had driven since our accident and it was really dark, so I was being extra careful. I drove the speed limit and slowed down for the potholes which Im sure pissed off several of the South African drivers behind me, but I didn’t care. No accidents were going to happen while I was driving.
We arrived at Elna’s 4 AM on Sunday and went to sleep.
According to some reports we read people we stilling sitting in traffic on the N4 at 4AM.