Prayer key to Ghana’s team spirit

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Ghana captain John Mensah believes religious faith has been key to his side’s brilliant performances at the World Cup.
Ghana defeated Serbia 1-0 and drew 1-1 with Australia, meaning a draw against Germany on Wednesday could see them through to the Round of 16. With four points from two games, they are the best-performing African nation.
Their strength has been the coherence of their midfield play and their unity, with players praying together at the end of training, and even as they left the pitch before half-time in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Australia.
‘We just pray to God before we go out,’ Mensah told the German Press Agency, dpa. ‘We are Christians and we all know how important God is.
‘We all respect God and we pray every time before the game and after the game.’
The joy those prayer session bring is obvious to anybody who attends their training sessions.
‘We Black Stars are used to singing,’ Mensah said. ‘After training we sing together. Not always, but definitely on the day before the game.
‘We praise God, what he has done for us. Then the next day is match-day, so we use that opportunity to give us strength and help us go on into the game.’
It is religious faith, Mensah believes, that has enabled Ghana’s young squad to stay grounded and focused.
Ghana’s Under-20 squad won the World Youth Cup in Egypt last year, and many of them were involved in the senior team that reached the final of the African Cup of Nations in Angola in January.
Dede Ayew, Jonathan Mensah and Kwadwo Asamoah all played in that Under-20 side and in the 1-1 draw with Australia on Saturday.
‘They are guys but they did well,’ Mensah said. ‘We make sure they are motivated and confident, keep them normal, so they can do well for their nation and for themselves as well.
‘That’s why they played well. They must push hard and then they will do even better than they did against Australia.’
The Lyon defender, who spent last season on loan at Sunderland, had particular praise for his namesake, Jonathan Mensah, who took his place.
‘He did well,’ Mensah said. ‘Once we are together, we speak together, watch ourselves in training, everything we do we do together, so he has a lot of experience from us.’
Mensah senior missed the Australia game as a precaution because of a back injury, but he should return to face Germany.
For midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, the game has particular significance, given that he grew up there, has a German mother and could have played for Germany instead.
His brother, Jerome, is part of the Germany squad.
‘I don’t think he will have a problem to play against Germany,’ Mensah said. ‘When you make your decision about the national team you fight for your nation.’
Ghana’s team spirit has helped Boateng feel at ease with his team- mates. ‘We have one guy, Asamoah Gyan, he’s a funny guy – he likes to talk to people and make jokes, he has helped Boateng.
‘When we sing, he sings sometimes, he’s cool, he doesn’t sing on his own, but he joins in with us. I’m happy he’s with us; it’s good to have such a big player.’
Even if the recent spat between midfielder Sulley Muntari and coach Milovan Rajevac has soured their image slightly, Ghana’s strength is definitely their togetherness. —www.monstersandcritics.com