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Michael Taylor 1st Jul 2010 - 14:26

Asamoah a Gyan-t of African football

In a World Cup where South Africa became the first ever host not to make it through the group stage and Nigeria's plight resulted in a self-imposed two year ban from international football you could easily be forgiven for thinking African football is on the decline.

Not all is lost though thanks to the Black Stars of Ghana who, due to being handed a doddle of a quarter of the draw, may just defy the odds to become the first ever nation from the African continent to grab a World Cup semi-final place.

Their task isn't easy, especially with Uruguay's deadly forward combination of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez on the rampage, however it's hard to argue it's not a plumb tie for Milovan Rajevac's men.

The starting point for the Western Africans is that they should have very little fear.

They've already faced better sides than Uruguay in this tournament in the shape of Serbia, Germany and the USA and fared well, rarely looking overmatched even against the impressive Germans.

Despite the absence of Michael Essien from the midfield - a loss that should really have crippled their bid - they've still been able to keep it tight and compact at the back while having enough up front to cause a few threats.

The main man in that role has been Rennes striker Asamoah Gyan and it was his extra time goal against the USA in the round of 16 that catapulted his nation to the promised lands.

His pace and movement have proved a constant thorn throughout the South Africa jamboree and you have to believe the Uruguayan centre back pairing of Mauricio Victorino and Diego Lugano will come under similar pressure.

After Diego Godin was replaced at the break in Uruguay's 2-1 round of 16 victory over South Korea the back four came under a fair amount of pressure and had it not been for Suarez's stunning double a shock could have been on the cards.

A lot of talk has been of the South American dominance in South Africa, for me though Uruguay's defensive frailties make them a distant cry from the likes of Brazil and Argentina and I expect Ghana will prove this.

The big issue for them is whether they can handle the threat of Forlan and Suarez with Edinson Cavani playing just off the front two providing top notch ammunition.

It'll certainly ask a lot of questions of Messrs Mensah and Paintsil but if they display the same sort of grit and athleticism as confronted the USA then they could be on to a winner.

In general though, with so much at stake for both sides, it's hard to predict a free flowing, end-to-end classic - in fact the more you think about it the more you start to wonder whether it'll be one moment of magic that wins it.

I think Asamoah Gyan could be that man, the man who becomes the new face of African football and at 13/2 to score the first goal of the game he certainly represents enough value to add to his tally of three.

Likewise at 13/2 you can back a 1-0 Ghana victory while on the total match goals over/under market you back under 1.5 total match goals at a tasty 11/8 - all of which fit perfectly into the context of a game where nerves could easily outweigh talent.

In terms of match betting Ghana again carry the value at 3/1, with Uruguay looking a tad short a 21/20 given the lack of quality they've come up against so far.

Not to say Uruguay are in a false position at this quarter-final stage - because they're not - but until they go out and prove they're contenders I find it hard to touch them at a point shy of evens.


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