“In all honesty, the boys did well, they played their best, missed a few chances, but they did their best,” a post on social media read after Ghana’s exit from the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

This and many others, usually are comments that some Ghanaians have often used to brush aside the Black Stars’ early exits from the last two tournaments.

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2022 FIFA World Cup are the latest setbacks the Black Stars have suffered since last making it to the knockout stage of a major competition in Egypt three years.

Qatar 2022: So close yet so far; Black Stars edition
Wakaso Mubarak of Ghana praying with the Ghanaian team during the 2019 African Cup of Nations match between Ghana and Tunisia at the Ismailia Stadium in Ismailia, Egypt on July 8, 2019. (Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Ghana lost to Tunisia on penalties in the Round of 16 tie after finishing top of Group F, which also housed Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau – this was the last time the Black Stars advanced from their group and experienced knockout football.

With the appointment of Milovan Rajevac before the start of the 2021 AFCON, there was optimism the team was set for another good time with the Serbian who delivered Ghana’s best-ever performance on the world scene – a place in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup.

Qatar 2022: So close yet so far; Black Stars edition
Alexander Djiku of Ghana during Ghana against Morocco, African Cup of Nations, at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on January 10, 2022. (Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Despite losing the opening game to Morocco in Group C, which also had Gabon and Comoros alongside the Black Stars, Ghana’s performance in their second group game against the Panthers breathed hope and assured fans the team could qualify with a win against Comoros, who were only making their AFCON debut.

Two quickfire goals from Richmond Boakye Yiadom and Alexander Djiku after the Black Stars had gone down 2-0 down set the tone for a perfect finish to the group stages as expectations increased again.

Qatar 2022: So close yet so far; Black Stars edition
Ghana’s forward Andre Ayew (R) walks off after receiving a red card during the Group C Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Ghana and Comoros at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 18, 2022. (Photo by Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL BELOUMOU OLOMO/AFP via Getty Images)

However, Ahmed Mogni broke the heart of Ghanaians with an 85th-minute strike that saw the four-time African champions experience their worst-ever performance at the continental showpiece, finishing bottom of the group.

That result also meant the end of the road for Rajevac and a new set on the touchlines with Otto Addo leading the charge.

Prior to Qatar, expectations were perhaps relatively managed after the Black Stars were ranked as the lowest team at the World Cup.

After holding Portugal to a 0-0 draw in the first half of their opening game, the Black Stars succumbed to a 3-2 defeat in the second period of the game, a loss which was not too surprising but for the fact that Portugal were on the receiving end of some controversial calls by the centre referee, Ismail Elfath.

Qatar 2022: So close yet so far; Black Stars edition

It was the second however which won the hearts of Ghanaians once again — one that sparked jubilations even before the final group game against Uruguay.

Mohammed Salisu netted the opener against South Korea before Mohammed Kudus also added a second as Otto Addo’s side went into the break with a two-goal lead.

But as was the case in the game against Portugal, the Black Stars were pegged back within the space of five minutes as Gue-sung Cho scored twice (58th and 61st minutes). His quickfire double meant the score was 2-2 and Ghanaians’ confidence was beginning to dwindle.

Up stepped the star boy, Kudus, who curled in a cutback from Gideon Mensah after Inaki Williams had failed to make proper contact with the ball. The ball might have eluded the Spain-based forward but it was well-placed for the Ajax star, who took it well and ensured the Black Stars won the game.

Despite the spirited efforts from the Asians, the Ghanaians held on tight to secure all three points.

Qatar 2022: So close yet so far; Black Stars edition
AL RAYYAN, QATAR – NOVEMBER 28: Mohammed Kudus of Ghana scores their team’s second goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group H match between Korea Republic and Ghana at Education City Stadium on November 28, 2022, in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

Kudus went ahead to claim the Player of the Match award for what was yet another mesmerising performance in the Ghana jersey.

Then came the game — the one which was touted as revenge — one that Ghana needed just a point from to qualify from Group H — the clash with Uruguay, a team that handed Ghana a heartbreak in 2010.

Qatar 2022: So close yet so far; Black Stars edition
AL WAKRAH, QATAR – DECEMBER 02: Luis Suarez of Uruguay shakes hands with Andre Ayew of Ghana prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group H match between Ghana and Uruguay at Al Janoub Stadium on December 02, 2022, in Al Wakrah, Qatar. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The build-up to the game was all about the Luis Suarez handball incident in 2010 but Otto Addo and Thomas Partey during the press conference made it clear that the team was only focused on a win against the South Americans.

17 minutes into the game, Ghana was presented with an opportunity. Kudus had been fouled in the box and referee Daniel Siebert awarded a penalty after watching from the monitor, having been prompted by the officials in the VAR room.

Qatar 2022: So close yet so far; Black Stars edition
AL WAKRAH, QATAR – DECEMBER 02: Sergio Rochet of Uruguay saves a penalty from André Ayew of Ghana during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group H match between Ghana and Uruguay at Al Janoub Stadium on December 2, 2022, in Al Wakrah, Qatar. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Absent in 2010 due to suspension but available 12 years later, Andre Ayew stepped up to take the resulting penalty. He missed but Ghana still had the upper hand as Portugal had also taken the lead against South Korea in the other game.

Everything then changed in Group H within the space of six minutes. Giorgian De Arrascaeta struck twice for Uruguay and Ghana moved from being safe to third on the table and needed something out of the blue.

Otto Addo made two changes at halftime with Osman Bukari and Kamaldeen Sulemana replacing Andre and Jordan Ayew respectively.

The game turned immediately as the Black Stars began to threaten, not to say the Ayew brothers were at fault but Kamaldeen and Bukari injected urgency into the team’s play and Ghana threw everything they had at Uruguay.

Ghana attempted seven shots in that half, four more they had attempted in the first half and saw 58% of the ball, the tally their opponents had in the opening 45 minutes of the game.

Regardless of how hard they tried, the Black Stars were no closer to qualifying from the group and had to settle for knocking Uruguay out as well, a move that excited Ghanaians.

However, it was the fighting spirit of the lads which won over the hearts of Ghanaians.

But when will all of these so close yet so far issues be over for the national team? When will the nation also celebrate a laurel as Cameroon, Algeria and Senegal have recently done?

Should we book a place, the next major tournament for the Black Stars will be the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations and hopefully the team will live up to expectation and make us all proud with a title.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.