RUSTENBURG // "The Hope of Africa" reads the slogan splashed across the Ghana team bus, and it has never been so true as it was last night as Asamoah Gyan's extra-time winner saw them beat the United States and set up a quarter-final encounter with Uruguay. With the scores level at 1-1 after normal time, a long ball over the top from Andre Ayew three minutes into the extra period was controlled well by Gyan and the Rennes striker held off Carlos Bocanegra, the US captain, before smashing past keeper Tim Howard for his third goal of the tournament to give the Black Stars victory.
It sent the passionate "home" support wild, with a cacophony of traditional drums and ear-piercing vuvuzelas tooting even louder, as the host nation's supporters got behind their neighbours, the continent's last remaining representative at Africa's first World Cup. The Ghanaians had looked much the better side for most of the game and appeared set when they opened the scoring early on. With both teams still settling, Ricardo Clark, the Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder, was dispossessed in the centre of the park and Kevin Prince Boateng, Ghana's German-born midfielder, collected the ball and ran menacingly at Jay DeMerit.
With the Watford centre-half back-peddling, Boateng struck neatly into the corner with his left foot to provide the Black Stars with their first goal from open play at this tournament. The US, positioned 18 places above their opponents in Fifa's world rankings, were rattled and failed to genuinely threaten. Jozy Altidore, America's 20-year-old forward, and Robbie Findley, returning from suspension, were struggling to impose themselves. Bradley showed that he was not afraid to take decisive action.
Clark, at fault for the goal and having been booked for a challenge on Boateng shortly afterwards, was hauled off, replaced by Maurice Edu. As the 27-year-old left the field, he was consoled by his boss before taking his seat with tears filling his eyes. Robbie Findley came closest for the United States - his shot while one-on-one with Richard Kingson being well blocked by the goalkeeper - but still it was Ghana who looked more likely to score.
Kwadwo Asamoah enjoying success down the right side, got the better of DeMerit late in the first half, but the Udinese winger's goal-bound effort was well stopped by the strong right hand of Howard. Bradley made a further change at half-time, introducing Benny Feilhaber in place of Findley and the substitute almost scored in his side's first attack. Clint Dempsey's cross was touched on by Altidore, whose lay-off landed at the feet of the Aarhus midfielder. But his finish was smartly stopped by Kingson.
It was a harbinger of things to come for the Ghanaians as the US pressed for the equaliser. Landon Donovan, the scorer of America's last-minute goal against Algeria that put them into the last 16, was starting to force his way into the game. The breakthrough came when Ghana's Jonathan Mensah, a crowd favourite because he plays for South Africa's Free State Stars, bundled Dempsey over in the area and Donovan stepped up to net from the spot, his shot going in of the right post.
Now the US were in the ascendancy and Milovan Rajevac, Ghana's Serbian coach, threw on Lee Addy in a bid to give his side balance. The result was both teams playing with real attacking desire, yet it was the Americans who came closest in regular time - Altidore did what he does best and chased a hopeful ball, nudging a defender aside before watching his shot slide past the wrong side of Kingson's upright.
Extra time was forced and Gyan's moment of magic came just three minutes in. The Americans, who lost 2-1 to Ghana in the group stage in 2006, looked beaten as their opponents refused to let them get a foot on the ball. As the whistle went, Bradley's men collapsed to their knees heartbroken. In contrast, Ghana's players - and much of the colourful crowd - erupted in jubilation, for it is Africa that will now meet Uruguay at Soccer City on Friday. @Email:email@example.com Man of the match:Andrew Ayew (Ghana)