09 30 2016
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WUERZBURG, Germany--On match days, Ghana's dressing room could be mistaken for African soccer's hall of fame.

Before the Black Stars beat the United States 2-1, Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o visited the players to provide encouragement. Ghana great Tony Yeboah was there, too.

Advice and good wishes also flowed in from Cameroon's Roger Milla, Ghana's Abedi Pele and other African players leaving the World Cup, as well as soccer associations from across the continent.

Now, Ghana captain Stephen Appiah says the whole of Africa is cheering for the Black Stars to beat Brazil in Dortmund on Tuesday.

"We saw a lot of old players come to our dressing room," Appiah said. "It motivated us because we want to be like them. We have to go in and represent not only Ghana but represent the continent as well.

"After the (U.S.) game, friends called me from Senegal, Togo, Nigeria," Appiah added. "That tells me we are playing for Africa. There's no rivals. Africans are proud of Ghana playing in the World Cup."

Ghana is the only African team left in Germany, following the group-stage elimination of Angola, Togo, Ivory Coast and Tunisia.

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic said his aim remains reaching the semifinals -- an achievement Africans have narrowly missed on two previous occasions.

Four years ago, an extra-time goal from Turkey ended a terrific run by quarterfinalist Senegal, which started with an opening 1-0 win against 1998 World Cup champion France.

In 1990, Cameroon lost its quarterfinal match to England 3-2 in extra time. The Indomitable Lions had started with a 1-0 upset over Argentina.

Morocco and Nigeria are the only other African teams to reach the second round. Morocco did it in 1986, and Nigeria in 1994 and '98.

"I think we've made history. It's our first time in the competition and we've made it to the second round," midfielder Sulley Muntari said.

The Udinese player and striker Asamoah Gyan return from suspension to play Brazil, but midfielder Michael Essien is out after picking up two yellow cards in group games.

African teams, always arriving as underdogs, have typically relied on speed and strength to surprise high-ranked opponents, but have failed to follow up on their success in later tournaments.

Ghana is no exception. The Black Stars have won the African Cup of Nations four times and the FIFA under-17 championship twice, but their lack of consistency meant they only reached their first World Cup this year.

Dujkovic said that is changing, with more Africans playing important roles in major European leagues.

"Maybe it's optimistic, maybe not. But I believe my guys can achieve results, very positive for the country and the continent," Dujkovic said.

"We have excellent players. They don't need any instructions or information on how to play. We just need to tell them what is the weakness of our opponents ... (Brazil) will have to suffer to win this match."

-- The Associated Press

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