Population: 27 million (compared to 318.2 million in the United States)
Largest City: Kumasi (about 3.8 million)
Official Language: English
Most Spoken Language: Akan
Government: constitutional democracy
The Republic of Ghana is located in West Africa on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea, between Ivory Coast and Togo. In area, it is slightly smaller than Oregon. Its population of 27 million makes it the world’s 45th most populous country but about 1/12th the size of the United States.
Ghana declared independence from Great Britain in 1957, becoming the first African nation to declare its independence from a European colonial power. Prior to becoming a sovereign nation, Ghana was known as Gold Coast. Before colonization it was part of the Ashanti Empire.
The Ghanaian economy—bolstered by a wealth of gold, diamonds, and other minerals—is Africa’s seventh largest and one of the fastest growing in the world. Ghana has a growing technology sector and is the world’s second largest producer of cocoa.
Ghana National Football Team
Nickname: Black Stars
Confederation: Confederation of African Football (CAF)
Current FIFA World Ranking: 38
Highest Ever FIFA World Ranking: 14 (2008)
CAF Ranking: 4
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 3 (2006, 2010, 2014)
Best FIFA World Cup Result: Quarterfinals (2010)
The Ghanaian squad is known to fans as the Black Stars, a reference to the single black star in the middle of Ghana’s flag. (Ghana’s under-20 team is called the Black Satellites, which is fantastic.) Ghana has won the African Cup of Nations four times, most recently in 1982, more than any nation other than Egypt. (Cameroon has also won the Cup four times.) Ghana finished fourth in each of the last two Cup of Nations tournaments.
Only one of the 23 players on Ghana’s National Team, goalkeeper Steven Adams, plays for a club in the Glo Premier League, the top tier of Ghanaian club soccer. The other 22 play for foreign clubs. Four play for Serie A teams in Italy, and another four play for Ligue 1 teams in France.
Ghana’s captain, forward Asamoah Gyan, has been with the national team since 2003 when he was only 17 years old. In 79 international appearances, Gyan has scored 40 goals, including three in the 2010 World Cup. Gyan scored the goal against the United States in extra time in 2010 to send Ghana to the quarterfinals, its best ever result. He currently plays for Al Ain in the UAE Pro League.
Midfielder Michael Essein, of AC Milan, is Ghana’s vice-captain. Midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah, who plays for Juventus, was named the nation’s best player in 2012 and 2013. The most experience player (at least in international play) on the Ghanaian side is midfielder Sulley Muntari. Muntari, Essein’s AC Milan teammate, has scored 20 goals in 82 international appearances.
Prior to 2014, Ghana had only appeared twice in the FIFA World Cup. Both times they faced the United States and won:
The 2006 draw put Ghana and the United States together in Group E with eventual champion Italy. The Americans and Ghanaians met in the final group stage match. Though the U.S. earned only a single point in its first two matches (from a draw against Italy), a win over Ghana would have put Team USA through to the knockout stage. Ghana needed a draw or better to advance.
Ghana scored first, but the Americans pulled even with a Clint Dempsey goal in the 43rd minute. A controversial penalty in the closing moments of the first half allowed Ghana to take a 2-1 lead heading into the intermission. The United States had opportunities in the second half to pull even but were unable to capitalize. Ghana advanced to the round of 16, where it lost 3-0 to Brazil.
2010 (South Africa)
In 2010 the United States and Ghana both advanced to the knockout round, the U.S. by winning Group C and Ghana by finishing second in Group D. The two squads met in the round of 16. Ghana took the lead early on a Kevin-Prince Boateng goal in the fifth minute. Landon Donovan scored the equalizer for the Americans on a second-half penalty kick. The match went into extra time, and Gyan scored in the third extra minute. The United States was unable to answer, and the Black Stars moved on to the quarterfinals.
Ghana’s quarterfinal match again Uruguay was a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes, but Uruguay ended up winning on penalty kicks.