BRASILIA, Brazil – Ghana's tumultuous World Cup campaign was brought to a chaotic conclusion on Thursday, with two of the country's star players thrown out of the squad just hours before a 2-1 loss to Portugal ended its stay at the tournament.
A day after resolving a possible player mutiny over World Cup bonus payments was resolved, Ghana announced that Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng had been sent home and suspended indefinitely for disciplinary reasons.
Muntari's World Cup finished early because of an "unprovoked physical attack on an executive committee member of the GFA and a management member of the Black Stars, Mr. Moses Armah" on Tuesday, one statement read.
Boateng was also removed from the squad, after being accused in a second statement released by Ghana's federation "vulgar verbal insults targeted at coach Kwesi Appiah" during a training session this week.
"At this level, you look at the team, not one player, you always have to look at it like that," Appiah said after the defeat to Portugal that saw Ghana finish bottom of Group G.
"The players were all aware. They saw what happened. If you want to build a team and restore discipline, it's important to make the decision like this."
Boateng, said by his country's federation to have shown "no remorse for his actions," accepted his suspension and but added in an interview with German newspaper Sport Bild that "no one should think that I insulted the coach or did anything wrong."
Boateng said he and Muntari had been joking with each other during training Wednesday. The coach asked why they were laughing, and then sent Boateng to the dressing room, he added.
"After training I went to the coach and asked him if he had a minute for me. I asked him what he had against me," Boateng was quoted as saying. "Then he started shouting at me."
Ghana, a quarterfinalist in 2010, needed to beat Portugal in Brasilia on Thursday to stand any chance of reaching the second round. However, Cristiano Ronaldo's 80th-minute goal earned Portugal victory and meant Ghana failed to get out of its group for the first time at a World Cup.
Appiah played down the impact of the absences of Muntari and Boateng for the Portugal game.
"The incidents happened some few days ago," he said. "I don't think it had an impact on the game."
Muntari was suspended for the Portugal match anyway after collecting two yellow cards.
Ghana's World Cup campaign was already in turmoil following a row over appearance-fee payments that squad members had been promised but had not yet received heading to Brasilia for their final match.
The country's cash-strapped federation was forced to ask FIFA for an advance on the $8 million prize money it is guaranteed from playing at the World Cup to pay outstanding debts to players.
But the world's governing body said Thursday that the issue had been solved and that Ghana's players no longer required advance payments from FIFA.
"What the players requested was paid to them," said Appiah, who said Wednesday that a plane carrying cash sent by Ghana's president was being flown to the Brazilian capital.
World Cup prize money — which ranges in Brazil from $8 million for being knocked out in the group stage to $35 million for winning the title — is normally paid after the tournament.
Appiah said his young squad will be better for the experience in Brazil.
"Looking at the players that you present in a competition, you ask yourselves are these players the players that you think can get to the highest level," Appiah said.
"There were players who are tried and tested in the national team and you expect them to perform at the highest level. But many of these players have been brought in over the last two years. Performance-wise, all Ghanaians are happy with the performance the young guys made in this competition."
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story.