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Money still talks for Ghana after hope disappears

You almost had to pity Ghana’s manager for having to speak to press after World Cup exit

Ghana’s coach Kwesi Appiah gestures during the 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

What can you say? You almost had to pity Ghana’s manager Kwesi Appiah for having to speak to the press about the shambles of his team’s exit in Brasilia. He looked uncomfortable and sad.

A hugely popular, exciting team in the end needed just a win over Portugal they had looked capable of to progress. But then appearance money got in the way, two players were suspended for indiscipline on the day of the game – the day of the game! – and Ghana’s hopes seemed to disappear like sheep through a gate.

Was today’s result inevitable? Were the players embarrassed? This is what people wanted to know.

Appiah skirted around issues of guilt or blame, saying the disciplinary matter had been playing out for a while. “The incident happened a few days ago, so it’s always important that you make your decision . . . I don’t think it had any impact on the game.”

It was true that Ghana had shown spirit in the second half, but their lack of focus was illustrated by a sloppy beginning. Appiah was unrepentant: “The decision [to suspend two players] was taken the day before the match . . . maybe it came out on the morning of the match. Saying that, the players were all aware, and they saw what happened happen. It’s got to do with disciplinary issues, and if you want to build a team and install discipline it’s important that you set things right so it doesn’t happen in the future.”

He spoke warmly of the performances of his young players, but you wonder what kind of memories they will have of the bickering about money in front of an international audience.

“This money had to do with appearance fees, and as you know they’re normally paid before a competition starts. It resulted in a few issues, in the team not training the whole of Tuesday . . . as for the amount, what the players requested was what was paid to them.

“Every coach would love to have his players concentrating on the games, not on money or other issues, so it’s not a lovely situation.”

Minutes later, with Appiah off to pack, Cristiano Ronaldo walked into the room and walked sombrely up to collect his prize for man of the match. It was a vaguely comical sight, and you could not blame him: in the later stages of the game he had enough good chances to have overhauled Portugal’s huge goal deficit.

For a few seconds the Real Madrid player ducked his head down at the mic: “We knew we had to score three and were depending on the result of the German game. We knew it was complicated . . . But that’s what football is. We tried our best and couldn’t do it. Thank you.”

Thank you and goodnight.