Under steady rain on the banks of the Delaware River, Ghana and Chile faced off in an international friendly Wednesday night. For Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko, it was an opportunity to don the Ghanaian national team jersey for the first time, as both sought to make their international debut.
Oduro, named to the starting XI by manager Goran Stevanovic, joined the likes of World Cup veterans Derek Boateng and Sulley Muntari. His international career began with a clattering tackle in the first minute, as the two sides raced around on the slick surface at PPL Park.
Lined up as a right outside midfielder, Oduro looked to insert himself into the action, however, much of the play occurred on the opposite flank. In the tenth minute, the fleet Ghanaian nearly got on the end of a low cross at the back post just a few yards from goal, but a Chilean defender intervened and cleared the ball before Oduro could put a touch to it.
After 18 minutes Oduro’s first cap came to an end, with an injury leading to his early removal. It was an unfortunate break for the 2011 Chicago Fire MVP, who was replaced by fellow debutante Richard Mpong. Nevertheless, Oduro had a positive outlook on his first appearance for the Black Stars.
“It was an honor get the chance to play for my country,” Oduro said Wednesday. “It was unfortunate for me to take a knock, but I feel alright and should be good to re-join the Fire for our final preseason game Saturday.”
The first 45 minutes were characterized by wide-open, attacking soccer, with both teams forcing the opposing goalkeeper into action on a number of occasions. Led by Humberto Suazo, Matias Fernandez, and Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez, Chile managed to create several quality scoring opportunities in the opening half.
But it was Ghana that broke the deadlock. Captain Sulley Muntari threaded a pin-point pass through a line of Chilean defenders to Mpong at the back post. The 21-year old finished with poise, eliciting thunderous applause from the Ghanian fans in the 41st minute.
Nyarko made his Black Stars debut as a halftime substitute but took in a feeling of accomplishment prior to the match.
“To be on the field when the national anthem was playing was a very special moment,” said Nyarko. “I wondered if this was all a dream. I was actually a little star-struck, seeing guys like Sulley and Derek that I watched growing up. Anytime you get to play for your country, it’s a great honor.”
The Virginia Tech product settled in well, showing great vision in an effective and lively 45 minutes of play as an outside midfielder. Nyarko was unlucky not to have registered two assists, as the Black Stars squandered several golden opportunities inside the box.
In the 61st minute, he found the ball at his feet inside the box after a smart, looping run following a throw-in. With a defender approaching, he squared a pass to teammate Emmanuel Baffour, whose curling shot rang off the inside of the far post and rolled across the face of goal before being swept away.
Chile pressed for an equalizer, with Ghanaian goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey making multiple saves on close range efforts. Despite being reduced to 10 men in the 70th minute, the South Americans continued to surge forward, eventually earning a 74th minute penalty. Fernandez converted, leveling the score at 1-1.
“It’s a great confidence builder to play with the national team. But it’s also a great motivator, knowing that if I continue to excel at the club level that I will get these kinds of opportunities.”