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Ghana World Cup Soccer player:

AFTER a few days of reflection on their historic second-round victory over the United States of America, Ghana midfielder Stephen Appiah has told Fifa.com that the Black Stars are relaxed and happy to be together.

Having gone further in the World Cup than ever before, and with a tricky match against Uruguay at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg tomorrow evening, the Bologna midfielder reflects on the values of what he calls “a special team”.

“I am warmed by the players. There’s no tension, no pressure. Always with smiles, singing and laughing – stuff like that. What I’ve learnt is the more pressure you put on yourself, the more things go wrong.

“So, I’ve been telling the guys that they should be free and that nobody should even think about the games. Maybe a day or two before, then we have to focus on the game ,” the 29 year old said. Handling the world’s biggest in this way has been a consistent refrain from the Black Stars.

As they were four years ago on their finals debut, Ghana are the only African representatives in the knockout rounds, so they are obviously doing something right.

And as anyone who has seen the joy and unity in their post-match celebrations can attest, togetherness is one of the team’s hallmarks – not just in word but in spirit.

“ You can see the way we talk to and the respect we have for each other. We practise together, we laugh together, we do everything together.

“In fact, you can’t even see the difference with the lower-cut players and the professional players. I think that’s the secret. It’s the nice thing about this team,” Appiah said.

One of the veterans of what is the youngest team, Appiah has been around the block a few times having started his career at Hearts of Oak before embarking on a 13-year career, mostly in Italy’s Series A with Udinese, Parma, Brescia and Juventus.

Appiah, a former Fenerbahce player, explains that the young Black Stars are naturally driven in a way many sides are not. “This Black Stars team is strange. If you go to some of the teams, if you go to their camp after a big victory like (against the US), you’ll see the players outside the lobby, drinking and going to bed late.

“But, in our camp, you won’t even see the players outside. After a big win you’ll see us in our rooms, maybe talking with our wives, with our girlfriends or friends.

“We will be playing cards or listening to music. I think it’s a good thing because – as I always say – with big players, you don’t see them out after a big victory. They always stay in and focus. I think it’s a good sign.

“The moment you think everything is going well and you start getting a cocky head, then everything goes wrong,” he said.

But while admitting that the team are “really proud” of reaching the quarter-finals, matching Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002, they are excited rather than intimidated by the opportunity that now presents itself.

“I think that history is always history. It’s our turn. Now that we’re there, it’s history for Ghana. We hope that we can still better it by going to the semi-final. And, for myself, it would be a great achievement because one day I would like to talk to my kids and explain to them what happened in South Africa in 2010,” Appiah said.

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