At last the Black Stars, as Ghana are known, are shining and this World Cup is all the brighter for it. They may be the first country to have won the African Nations' Cup four times and one of the continent's oldest footballing powers but until yesterday they had not made an impression at this level.
They have now. This is their debut competition, having never previously qualified, and having lost their opening Group E fixture to Italy it was feared they would sink against a rampant Czech Republic. Instead they rose powerfully and now have a wonderful chance to progress.
Their celebrations were as brilliant as their football. They bowed before the fans but it was everyone in the stadium who should have been lowering their heads to them. It was wildly energetic. And fun. If only they could score enough goals. They struck twice but it could have been half a dozen. Or more.
No one could argue with their coach, the Serb Ratomir Dujkovic, when he said that Petr Cech saved the Czechs from a five or six-goal defeat while the goalkeeper's Chelsea team-mate Michael Essien dedicated the result by saying "this is for the team, the country and for all of Africa". It was also a gift to the World Cup.
A moment in the 90th minute summed it all up. Ghana broke. They were three against one. And that one was Cech. The ball was played forward and Sulley Muntari was therefore offside as he put it into the net. It was ludicrous. The pass was made by the gloriously named substitute Razak Pimpong. Pimpong? It was more like a game of ping-pong as the Czechs also went hammer and tong at the Ghanaian goal even though they sorely missed their injured strikers Jan Koller and Milan Baros and finished with 10 men after the dismissal of Tomas Ujfalusi.
Ghana will also now have to deal with serious losses. Both goalscorers - the brilliant yet wildly erratic young striker Asamoah Gyan and the vibrant winger Muntari picked up bookings and are now suspended for the match against the United States. It will be a major blow but they still have the awesome midfield pairing of Essien and the captain Stephen Appiah.
Gyan's caution was typical of the chaotic nature of it all. While his team-mates implored the referee to send off Ujfalusi, after he conceded a penalty for clipping Matthew Amoah, Gyan took the penalty. He was yellow-carded as the Czech defender was shown red. He then slammed the re-take against a post. Gyan also scored after just 70 seconds. A half-clearance fell to Appiah and he easily beat Tomas Rosicky before picking out Gyan. The 20-year-old striker, playing in Italy's Serie B with Modena, was not distracted by Ujfalusi's mistimed diving header and chested the ball. In one movement he beat Cech with a low shot.
It set the touchpaper alight. Shots rained in. For the Czechs Marek Jankulovski, Jaroslav Plasil, Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborsky and Rosicky were all wayward. For the Ghanaians Appiah, time and again, broke forward. He slipped a pass to Gyan who appeared distracted by the time and space he had as much as the advancing Cech who smothered his shot. Gyan beat the turf in frustration and did so again, after the break, when Cech turned away another shot after the striker collected Richard Kingston's skimming goal-kick.
The pressure continued to mount. The Czechs still carried the fight but started to look the ageing team they are. One of their older stars was withdrawn and Kingston had to tip over from Plasil after he connected with a low cross from the replacement, Jiri Stajner. At the other end Cech was pulling off save after save. Gyan, Appiah, Amoah. They all missed one-on-ones with the goalkeeper.
Finally he was beaten. Gyan, down the right, picked out Muntari who dragged the ball back and rifled his shot beyond Cech. The nonchalance of his execution made a mockery of all the previous, fluffed opportunities. Even then there was time for Appiah to burst forward while Kingston made fine saves from headers by the two other substitutes, Libor Sionko and Jan Polak. The Czechs drew a blank. The Ghanaians are firing.Reuse content