The round of 16 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup has begun, and teams have come and gone, with the cream now rising to the top. There has been attrition of the Muslim contingent in the tournament, with the only Muslim nation, Algeria, as well as a Muslim-laden French team both having been eliminated in the group stages. But Muslim soccer indeed lives on at the World Cup, led by the Black Stars of Ghana.
Ghana faced the United States in the round of 16 in a hard-fought battle that had to go into extra time. The Black Stars went on the scoreboard first with a quick goal at the 5 minute mark. They then held the lead for much of the match until a United States penalty kick tied the score after 62 minutes. The two teams remained tied through the end of regulation time and through stoppage time, necessitating 15 minutes of extra time. And it was early in this extra period when Ghana tacked on the decisive second goal and held on for a 2-1 victory. The Muslim presence on the team lies in the midfield, which is manned by the Ayew brothers, Andre and Abdul Rahim, as well as Sulley Ali Muntari. Andre Ayew currently is employed by Marseille of the top French league, although he was most recently was on loan to a lower division club, AC Arles-Avignon. Abdul Rahim Ayew plays professionally for El Zamalek in the Egyptian league. The Ayewsâ€™ father, Abedi Pele, was three-time African Footballer of the Year. Sulleyman Ali â€œSulleyâ€ Muntari plays for the current winners of the European Champions League, Internazionale Milan. Ghana next faces Uruguay in the quarterfinals.
A couple of European teams remain in the World Cup with Muslim contributors, chief among them Germany. The Germans boast a talented midfield consisting of Muslims Mesut Oezil and Sami Khedira. Oezil, of Turkish descent, plays for Werder Bremen of the German Bundesliga, but he has reportedly attracted the attention of several English Premier League clubs with his exploits in this World Cup. Khedira, of Tunisian descent, plays professionally for VfB Stuttgart. Serdar Tasci, of Turkish descent, also plays for Stuttgart, and is a reserve defender for the German national team. Germany handily defeated England 4-1 in the round of 16, and will face the vaunted Argentinian team in the quarterfinals.
Holland also continues on in the tournament with Muslims on the roster. The Dutch have been very impressive thus far, having won all of their matches, and one of their young studs is Ibrahim Afellay. Afellay is an attacking midfielder for PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league, and in 2007 he won the Young Player of the Year award in Holland. He is of Moroccan descent. Afellay is joined on the team by Khalid Boulahrouz, a reserve defender. Boulahrouz, also of Moroccan descent, has played for a number of big clubs thoughout Europe, including Hamburg, Sevilla, and Chelsea, and he currently plays for Stuttgart. The Dutch disposed of Slovakia in the round of 16 and will now face the powerhouse Brazilian squad in the quarterfinals.