By Mike Collett
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Ghana, having emulated their second round showing at the World Cup of four years ago, have given Africans belief that their involvement in the tournament is far from over.
Before the Black Stars kicked off against Germany in their final Group D match at Soccer City on Wednesday, there was every likelihood that all six African teams taking part in the first World Cup in Africa would fail to make it past the group stage.
Despite losing 1-0 to the Germans though, Ghana succeeded where hosts South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon and almost certainly Ivory Coast have failed by qualifying for the last 16 where they face a winnable match against the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday with a quarter-final place the prize.
The only African nations to have made it to the last eight have been Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002, but Ghana could join that elite club if they actually manage to convert their attractive creativity into goals.
The problem is, they don't do that very often.
They have advanced by scoring just twice -- both goals from penalties converted by Asamoah Gyan -- in a 1-0 win over Serbia and a 1-1 draw with Australia, but they now need to improve their finishing.
FAILED TO SCORE
It does not help that they have failed to score more than one goal in their last 13 internationals -- a run that stretches back to the African Cup of Nations in Angola in January when they reached the final with only four goals in five matches.
Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac was in no doubt where the improvement is needed following Wednesday's match.
"We held our own and played very well and created plenty of chances -- we had some wonderful chances to score -- but we had a bit of bad luck and we failed to take them.
"Perhaps we lacked a bit of concentration. I hope we can score real proper goals going forward and take our chances," he told reporters afterwards.
"And now we are through to the last 16, I hope the majority of South Africans will continue to support us. I hope we will benefit from massive support here in South Africa."
Germany won with a superb left-foot half-volley from Mesut Ozil after 60 minutes, but Ghana created plenty of opportunities of their own, most notably when Kwadwo Asamoah had a real chance after 52 minutes but shot straight at keeper Manuel Neuer.
Dede Ayew, who missed chances of his own, admitted: "It was a very difficult match but we fought and it was enough to get us through. Yes, we wasted some chances, but the important thing is that we went through."
Wednesday's game was the first in the World Cup with two siblings on opposite sides, with Ghana's Kevin-Prince Boateng lining up against his younger half-brother Jerome.
"It was a very emotional day for me," said Kevin-Prince, who represented Germany at junior level before opting for Ghana this year. "I thought about it all day, and it turned out well because although we lost, we went through and that was what mattered most."
(Editing by Michael Holden)