Asamoah Gyan put up a captain’s performance by bagging a brace in Ghana’s 6-1 first leg World Cup play-off encounter with Egypt on Tuesday.
An own goal from Wael Gomaa, a Majeed Waris header, a Sulley Muntari penalty and a late strike by Christian Atsu made it six for Ghana, while Mohamed Abou-Treika tucked in from the penalty spot for Egypt.
Barring a miracle from Egypt in the second-leg, it is safe to assume Ghana can book their flights to Brazil, and with the Black Stars all but assured of their place, it should help banish Gyan’s World Cup 2010 demons.
The striker was one of the stars in South Africa, and with Ghana the last remaining African nation in the tournament at the quarter-final stage, had the support of an entire continent in their quest for glory.
Seconds of extra-time remained in their last-eight encounter with Uruguay when striker Luis Suarez deliberately handled the ball on the line to save a certain goal.
The Liverpool forward saw red and Ghana were awarded the spot-kick – all Gyan had to do was convert and the Black Stars would have been the first African nation into a World Cup semi-final.
But as the saying goes, football can be a cruel game. Gyan’s effort skimmed the crossbar and Uruguay went on to win the penalty shootout and break millions of African hearts.
Even two years later, Gyan admitted he “never fully recovered” from that infamous miss and it was a key reason behind his initial retirement from international football in 2012.
After a year at Sunderland following the 2010 World Cup, Gyan made his way over to the UAE and has been a revelation for Al Ain; becoming the league’s stand-out striker and playing a vital role in his side’s back-to-back Pro League titles, including a league record 31 goals last season.
The 27-year-old has started the new campaign in similarly fine fettle, helping himself to four goals from the opening three fixtures.
While Gyan’s 2010 anguish may never fully be forgotten, he is certainly doing all he can to ensure he and his nation have a lot to get excited about ahead of next summer.
It may be a time for celebration in West Africa, but to the north, fans have been left “depressed” after watching Egypt’s fairytale come to a crushing end.
Mathematically, with a second leg still to play at home next month, Egypt could yet make it to the finals in Brazil next year.
But fans of The Pharoahs are realistic enough to realise that overturning a 6-1 deficit is nigh-on impossible.
“The World Cup dream is over. What a nightmare,” said Ali Hassan, 18.
“We needed this victory to raise our morale, something that can unite us and help overcome our religious and political disputes,” said Ahmed Badr, a 20-year-old university student.
The fact that this result occured on the first day of Eid made it all the more difficult to bare.
“It’s so hard to take this defeat during the holiday,” said Mahmoud Shawki, breaking into tears as he watched Egypt’s capitulation in Accra.
It’s a feeling Gyan knows only too well, but one that he is now a step closer to banishing to the dustbin of history.