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Playing for Africa, Ghana faces US at World Cup

RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) — Either buoyed or burdened by carrying Africa's hopes at the World Cup, Ghana finds its route to the quarterfinals blocked by a United States team out to avenge a contentious loss four years ago.

The Ghanaians reached the round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup — also as Africa's last remaining representative — courtesy of a penalty call that still rankles the Americans.

"An injustice," said defender Oguchi Onyewu, who was ruled to have fouled Razak Pimpong while going for a header. "I still to this day don't know where the foul came from."

Ghana midfielder Stephen Appiah converted from the spot to secure a 2-1 win and eliminate the United States.

"That was not a good day — for me or the team," U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan said. "What I remember most personally was my tentativeness and the immediate feeling afterwards of the finality of it, and how disappointing that was."

Donovan set up the chance to partially erase those painful memories with his injury-time winner against Algeria on Wednesday.

In the first Group C matches, the U.S. held England to a 1-1 draw, then recovered from two goals down to tie 2-2 with Slovenia, when a third American goal was disallowed in the final minutes.

The United States must win a second straight World Cup match for the first time since 1930 on Saturday to reach the quarterfinals.

The U.S. has already broken one 80-year hex in South Africa by winning its group. And the 2009 Confederations Cup finalists are thinking big.

"If we continue to build on the successes so far, we can go to the end," coach Bob Bradley said Friday at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. "That's what it's all about, but that has to be balanced with a concentration on each game."

Starting with the matchup with four-time Africa champion Ghana, which lost this year's African Cup of Nations final to Egypt.

"They are an athletic side and they have some good guys going forward," U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said. "I know a few of their players personally, like John Mensah and their striker Asamoah Gyan. So I know the quality of players they have on their team."

While the Americans hope each World Cup success will help to grow soccer's following back home as well as the team's, Ghana can expect to be backed by Africa's nearly 1 billion inhabitants.

Ghana is the continent's last remaining hope at the first World Cup to be staged in Africa, with the Ivory Coast on Friday following Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria and host nation South Africa out of the tournament.

"We want to do it for Africa," midfielder Sulley Muntari said. "We want to break records."

That means reaching the quarterfinals for the first team, having been denied by Brazil four years ago.

Ghana, though, has scored only two goals in South Africa — both penalties by Asamoah Gyan — in beating Serbia 1-0 and holding Australia to a 1-1 draw. Ghana advanced despite losing its last Group D match 1-0 to Germany.

"It's a fact that we haven't scored from open play, but it does not mean that we can't play," Muntari said. "We will continue working hard on it."

Ghana is showing it can cope without injured star midfielder Michael Essien.

"I thought they'd struggle a little bit without Essien," Donovan said. "But they've looked very good ... like a lot of African teams, they're fairly unpredictable."

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Associated Press Writers Karl Ritter, Ronald Blum and Enock Muchinjo contributed to this report.