Ghana’s cash worries solved ahead of crunch tie with Portugal

Coach Appiah admits aircraft carrying money on the way ahead of game Black Stars need to win

It has become like a tournament within a tournament – which nation can best screw up the payment of appearance fee money and ruin preparation for a vital game?

Ghana have emerged as worthy champions at this World Cup, with coach James Kwesi Appiah confirming yesterday that an aircraft full of cash – more than $3 million in government money, according to the country's deputy sports minister – was winging its way to Brasilia.

The loot was due to land a couple of hours after a surreal press conference at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Appiah confirmed – and as he did so it was hard not to imagine a huge pallet of hard currency, a miniature of Walter White’s methamphetamine stash, being lowered through the door of the cargo-hold.

“How will you protect the money and take care of it so you don’t lose it?” one reporter asked. He was being cheeky, but he also had a point.


Appiah and winger Christian Atsu, who had spent 20 minutes talking about virtually nothing but the money, creased up. "Of course we will keep it in our bags . . ." Atsu said, holding his sides, "We will transfer the money into our accounts."

Appiah was brilliantly cheerful on the subject ahead of today's crunch match with Portugal – he refused to talk numbers as "the players would kill me" – but he also admitted that the issue had affected his sleep. "These things are normally sorted out before the competition. At this stage of the competition it's difficult … you can't keep telling the players the money will come, the money will come."


The morale of the players had been damaged, he confessed. “But we’ve been working on them since yesterday, this morning they’ve all come back to themselves, they’ve tried to put it behind them and do the best they can.”

They were not exactly reassuring words before rip-roaring Group G comes to a head today. Billed as a group of death, it has actually proven more dangerous than that – especially for Portugal, who would need to win by maybe four goals today to stand any chance of progressing.

Unlikely though that may be, it does mean that Portugal will go all-out, with Ghana needing to do the same to clinch the win that could see them through. But only if Germany beat the United States in Recife; a draw there and both Germany and the US will qualify.

Juicy plot

It is a juicy plot that Portugal manager

Paulo Bento

treated sourly, as though it were a leaden episode of the


. Was he fearful of a stitch-up in Recife? “I’m not afraid of that. You can’t be afraid in football. What you need in football is respect, dignity, trying to be competent, and nothing else. We have a match, the US and Germany have a game tomorrow too, we have to play our match.”

To be fair, not only have Portugal played terribly here, and been badly affected by Cristiano Ronaldo’s lack of fitness, but Bento is under fierce pressure over his future. He said he had no intention of resigning despite the poor campaign, and claimed he had the full backing of his federation.

“What exactly do you want me to answer?” he snapped. “If I’m going to continue with the team? I have repeated many times, the situation is very specific, very peaceful. The federation trusts me, this goes way back.” They sounded like hollow words.

He did acknowledge the size of the task today. “We know we are in a very complicated position, have to choose the best strategy against an opponent that is at a high level technically, a high level physically.”

Beside him, Pepe was tetchy too, but insisted he did “believe in miracles”. You wouldn’t be putting Ghana’s money on them.