It is an inevitably happy Alexander Djiku that we found after the success of Ghana over South Korea (3-2), this Monday afternoon. Four days after an initial defeat against Portugal (2-3), the central defender of Strasbourg and the Black Stars (28) will therefore play a qualification for the knockout stages of his first World Cup. He tells it from the inside.
“How did you experience this meeting, a little crazy?
It was a game of twists and turns. They made a good first 15 minutes where they could have materialized. We weren’t in it, but we were able to manage. We knew that if we hadn’t won, it would have been difficult for the future. We must salute the spirit of this group, we were all united, we did not lower our heads and, after the equalizer, we managed to score this 3rd goal, which does us good. In the last minutes, we put the bus in front of the surface to keep the result (smile).
How to get into a match like this, with a central defense that goes to three, suddenly?
The instructions were clear, to keep this goal in advance. We had to defend body and soul, which we did well. It’s a question of concentration, making the right moves at the right time. I think everyone got into the game well. It’s really the victory of a group. We all gave it our all to stay alive and have one last game to qualify.
“We have to erase what is not going so well, especially the start of the match”
It’s a final now. Uruguay, are you already thinking about it?
We are missing a point. We’re going to celebrate that (Monday) evening, but we will have to remobilize tomorrow. We have to erase what is not going so well, especially the start of the match. You have to recover, keep a cool head. We know that there is a little rivalry between the two teams, since they eliminated us a few years ago. (2010 World Cup quarter-finals). We can rely on that to mobilize everyone. So there will be a big commitment.
You started in a five-man defense, the first game, replacing in a four-man defense in the 2nd…
The coach spoke to me before the match, he told me that it was not at all compared to my performance against Portugal. He has to make choices. We are 5 central defenders for 2 or 3 positions. But he knows my state of mind and, starter or substitute, I always give everything.
Don’t you feel like you started playing too late against Portugal, especially with that surprise five-man defence?
No, it was the coach’s instructions. We faced a team that has very big individualities and that likes to play in depth. We had to have a big defensive block, with tight lines. That’s what we did well, for an hour, before this somewhat contentious penalty, in my opinion. We then attacked and we may have seen ourselves a little too good because we suddenly left some space behind our backs. That’s how they scored their other two goals. There was a bit of regret, but we didn’t let go. Like today. And today we were rewarded.
What were the words of your captain, André Ayew, before this match?
Yesterday (sunday), he told us to remember everything we had done from the beginning. It’s not just three World Cup matches. Before, there were qualifications, play-offs, tough matches. We’ve come a long way and we had to rely on these encounters to stay focused and give it our all.
“I live these moments with a lot of emotion, but also a lot of calm, because you don’t have to be overwhelmed”
Can you tell us about the state of mind of this group? We saw you dancing at the final whistle…
Before the matches, we arrive dancing, singing, which does not mean that we are not concentrated. It’s a culture, it changes other countries.
How are you living this World Cup, from the inside?
This is a dream. Every player dreams of playing in a World Cup. I had the chance to start the first game, to come into play in the second. I live these moments with a lot of emotion, but also a lot of calm, because one must not be overwhelmed, precisely, by emotions. You have to stay calm, calm in your head.
Is the level higher than anything you had experienced before?
Yes. It really comes down to details. You forget a little thing and it counts. I watch all the matches and I have the impression that it’s those who want the most, who have the most guts who get there. We fight for a country, it’s something big. If we do it with the heart, there will be something beautiful, at the end. »