Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah tried to put a brave face on his side’s exit from the World Cup, but there must be a feeling that they have let an excellent chance slip.
A 2-1 defeat to a rampant Portugal, who will wonder how they did not win by a greater margin, ended the west African side’s involvement in the competition and is the first time in three finals they have failed to make the knockout stages.
The campaign was, to some extent, doomed from the moment they lost to USA in their opening game, as with much tougher tests to come against Germany and Portugal, that was a must-win.
But they were architects of their own downfall in many ways – on and off the pitch.
This World Cup will be remembered by fans of the Black Stars for all the wrong reasons, an early exit, squabbles over money, the expulsion of key players and allegations of mutiny against Appia. Swift denials from the Ghana FA followed, but are now accepted as rooted in some truth.
The match against Portugal was always going to be difficult after the build-up they had and the loss of key stars Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari – the latter suspended for this game in any event – will have done little to help the mood of the team.
Appiah says it had no effect on his side but that is hard to believe.
“The disciplinary incidents of the past few days didn’t have any impact on our performance,” he told reporters. “I think that, if you compare it with the team we had at the 2010 World Cup, this side is quite a lot younger – in that team we’d had players who’d been preparing for years.
“But we’re growing in confidence and we’re building a nice team for the future.”
Whether Appiah will be kept around to see this team to Russia in 2018 is the matter of some debate. He did not have universal support in his appointment in the first place, making it unlikely.
Portugal have also seen their dreams dashed, and there is no doubting where their campaign was lost, having also suffered in their first match – a horrendous 4-0 reversal at the hands of Germany.
“Our first match [the 4-0 defeat versus Germany] was crucial, due to the impact it had on us on every level – both on our morale and because it was a very heavy defeat, which meant we had a significant goal-difference handicap,” coach Paulo Bento said.
“It’s true that we had chances against United States, when we were the better team, but we didn’t put them all away. That forced us into a situation where we’d have to score a lot of goals [to qualify for the Round of 16], which is very difficult to do.
“Even in today’s game we had the chances to have racked up a bigger score. But it was what happened in the first game that proved decisive and which left its mark on us, even in terms of our preparations.”