Ghana remains the last African team in the World Cup. For John Mensah, Lyon’s defender on loan to Sunderland, the Black Stars can count on the support of the whole continent to take on the US, this saturday, in the second round of the 2010 World Cup. The Rock took time to talk exclusively to Afrik-news.com.
Afrik-news.com: Congratulations on getting to the next round, do you feel you have met the expectations you had before the tournament?
John Mensah: Well, it was hard group because we played difficult teams, but we had hopes of going through the group in the tournament. We didn’t set expectations before the World Cup, but we just knew we would work as hard as we could to achieve as much as possible, and give ourselves the chance to do well in the World Cup. We fought hard to qualify and I feel proud that we have done so.
Now you are the only African team left in the World Cup, how much do you recognise the support of this continent?
It’s true and I thank God for helping Ghana in the group stage. But the African supporters in the stadiums and the streets have been amazing, I think this support has been like this for all the African teams which shows everyone how great Africa is and the passion this continent has for football. If the Ivory Coast don’t qualify tonight, I feel sorry for the other African teams and sad they have not made it.
The whole of Africa will support us, and we are going to make them proud. As Africans we love to achieve things, and to do this for Africa would be fantastic. All eyes are on us and, and we are ready.
What does it mean to you to have this support?
To play the World Cup on African soil is difficult to describe, it is a great achievement and honour for all of us and all of the African teams, If Ghana are the only team left in the tournament, the whole of Africa will praise and we the support for us to move higher and achieve.
Do you feel added responsibility or pressure to deliver?
We try not to put pressure on ourselves. People are hoping we can do miracles, but I cannot say that will happen, but what I can say that we will do our best for Ghana and for Africa. Everyone is going to look at us and now we have qualified there is no limit to what we can achieve. What we try to do is relax between games and I remove this pressure, so that we can build up or the next game. In doing this we use his pressure to give us determination, which drives us on and helps us. We don’t say we are the best team, we work so hard. With this attitude we hope we can go far.
Are you confident going into your game against the USA?
We had a lot of chances to score against Germany, and I think we were unlucky. Our performance was good. I hope we can play like that against the USA, and if we do then we will be very difficult for them to beat.
We played against them in the last world cup and we beat them so that motivates us and gives us confidence and gives us determination. We didn’t want England as we have never played them before, and I am relieved that we don’t have to face them. As for USA, we are not afraid of them, as I say we have beaten them before and I believe we can do it again.
The USA are a very physical side, how will you counteract this?
They are. When we played them before they were like that, they are a good team and we are very aware of that. But we have to concentrate on how we play our football, we know how they are, but they also know who we are. I think it will be difficult for them, playing against us.
Are there any players specifically that you are wary or cautious of?
Clint Dempsey is a good player, he is always fighting in the midfield and will shoot from anywhere. The way he moves is very clever, and the positions he takes on the field, but then they have a number of good players in their team. Landon Donavan is also a great, and we need to be wary of him.
You played an exhausting match against Germany only 2 days ago, and now you play USA tomorrow. How hard is this, how much will it affect your preparations?
It is very hard, but that is the World Cup though, and in this tournament we have to be prepared to play like this. We have to rest in between games, this is so important and as footballers we have to be used to this way of playing and be ready to fight for our country at any point. We have to wind down and build up and manage this process. And when the time comes and we go onto the field to start the game we always have extra energy to play.
The spirit and the team in this team is amazing and we carry the hopes of this continent.
What are your hopes for the tournament now?
I will not say that we will go all the way. We all have hopes, and I am so proud of what we have achieved already. I am very happy that Ghana is the one who has made it is still in the competition. I hope we will make Africa proud, and deliver what they want from us. We need it for ourselves, and our family, and to deliver for our nation, and for the whole of Africa.
We are good players I believe we are going to deliver. Sulley and some of the other players play in big leagues – the Champions League, so we have good players. But most importantly we have a good spirit and good harmony on our team.
We are desperate to move as high as we can, and I believe we can go to the semi-finals. This would be an amazing achievement for us.
The PUMA Africa Unity shirt is the official 3rd strip of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Algeria. Sales raise money for biodiversity causes in Africa, see www.pumafootball.com for more information.