John Pantsil’s Ghana remain on course to qualify for the World Cup finals in South Africa after a tense 1-0 win over Benin.
In the African region, the qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations double as World Cup preliminaries as well and a victory for the Black Stars was essential to keep their hopes on track.
Pantsil started at right back for a weakened Ghana, despite speculation that he might fill in as an emergency left back, and the Fulham full-back played the final 90 minutes. The home side got off to a dream start as Prince Tagoe’s goal, which arrived in the very first minute. Sulley Muntari beat his man and whipped in a front which Tagoe poked home from close range.
The floodgates didn’t open for the Black Stars, however. Captain Stephen Appiah saw a shot suspiciously blocked by an arm and, despite seeing very little possession, Benin posed a significant threat on the counter attack. Romuald Boco shot over and then sent in a cross that eluded two of his team-mates in dangerous positions.
The game opened up as it neared its conclusion. Pantsil, on his 50th appearance for his country, went close to doubling Ghana’s lead but sent his header wide from six yards out after yet more sterling work from Muntari.
Earlier in the week, the Fulham defender told the media how delighted he was to reach a special landmark.
It is a fantastic achievement for me and my family and I am very elated and proud. It is something I haven’t thought about; all I care about is to line up for my country and do my best for the national team.
But on a day like this, it feels good to reflect and it feels good to know that I am about to represent my country 50 times. It is even more exciting when I consider the fact that this is something great players like Abedi Pele, Tony Yeboah, Sammy Kuffuor, Stephen Appiah and John Mensah have done. To be classified alongside these legends in terms of caps for the national team is a great source of inspiration for me.
Of course the dream of every player is to represent their country, but to get this opportunity and go on to play this much is beyond a dream-come-true.
I am not over excited about this achievement because I have a lot more to do for my country. For me, 50 is not enough. I want to look back at my international career when I retire one day and be able to call myself a true legend.
I am not looking forward to my personal achievement on Sunday. My concern is about helping the Black Stars to a winning start against Benin. It is a crucial match which we are all determined to win to pave a clear way to the World Cup.