As the Ghanaian players arrived for their crucial group match against South Korea at Al Rayyan, the halls of the Education Stadium were filled with the sound of West Africa.
“Jama time” is a musical celebration of culture, a nod to good morale, team spirit and conviviality.
The players moved towards the locker room while beating bougarabou drums and shaking a percussion instrument known as a shekere.
Among them, Strasbourg defender Alex Djiku who is having a “magical” tournament with his teammates. “Jama symbolizes our team, our country”, says Djiku Sky Sports News of the team camp in Qatar.
“It’s about joy and living every moment as a blessing. We are very serious on the pitch but outside we have to enjoy as a family.”
They then beat South Korea 3-2 with an impressive performance to set up a decisive game against Uruguay on Friday.
“We know it won’t be easy but we believe in it. We are united,” says Djiku.
“Envy, love of the country and the Ghanaian jersey are all factors [of performance vs South Korea]. And then there is talent in this team. We are proud to show the beautiful face of Ghana.”
Preparation for Friday’s game was dominated by references to the famous meeting with Uruguay in 2010when Luis Suarez handled the ball on the line only for Ghana to miss the resulting penalty, an act that helped their exit from the tournament.
“We are not bitter, especially since almost the entire team is different from that of 2010. We hear a lot about it in the media but South Africa is a thing of the past.”
Will he be able to talk about 2010 with Suarez during the game?
“No, if I start talking to Suarez, he will take the opportunity to disturb me and go behind me to score!” He’s joking.
“I was a teenager when I saw this game. It was difficult and I remember my father was very disappointed as we all were.
“I couldn’t imagine myself 12 years later wearing the Black Stars jersey and playing against Uruguay. We have the opportunity to change fate and make our fans proud.
“They are a team with a lot of courage, experience and talent. Mentally they are also strong so we must not fall into this trap.”
Djiku prefers to focus on his own game instead. He has faced Cristiano Ronaldo before at this World Cup and is no stranger to battles with Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi in domestic football.
“Ronaldo is not just any player but when I play I don’t care who I have in front of me.
“He’s still in good shape, believe me. He’s so smart with his movements and his desire to turn the tide of a match.”
He had similar praise for Ghana’s own superstar, despite Mohammed Kudus being in the early stages of his career.
Against South Korea, Kudus became the first Ghanaian to score a brace in a World Cup game and is the subject of an impressive mural in the streets of Nima, the suburb of Accra where he grown up.
“He’s the little nugget everyone is talking about. He’s a very good player, a very good boy with a good mentality.
“I think he can go far. He still has room for improvement and what he has shown in recent months is just talent. I think he can become a great player.”
There was similar applause for Brighton’s young full-back Tariq Lamptey. “Tariq is an important part of the team. He brought us his qualities with his speed and precision.
“He is very well integrated into the group and he is a young man with a lot of respect.”
Djiku’s performances have led to speculation that Leeds United are among clubs hoping to sign him when his contract expires in June.
“Yes, I heard some things. My contract situation can also be a factor, I think.
“I hope it shows that I am doing a good job sportingly but also with my nutrition, my recovery and my lifestyle.
“It’s gratifying but for now I’m keeping a cool head. I want to focus on the last group game of the World Cup, and the rest of the season with Strasbourg because there are important games.”
Djiku described his joy at qualifying for the World Cup in an interview with Sky Sports News last season. So what does he do to relax away from practice now that the tournament is well underway?
“We have a great atmosphere in the group so we never get bored. We play, we sing, we dance.”
They hope that solidarity and talent will ensure that the last dance is not Friday afternoon.
This is Ghana’s chance for revenge
Ben Grounds from Sky Sports:
Mark the date: December 2 at 3 p.m.
This is a shootout for the Last 16, a decision-maker tied to a dozen years of storytelling and resentment.
When Ghana take on Uruguay at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, the Black Stars will be aiming for revenge.
Former captain Stephen Appiah recently said in an interview with AlJazeera: “I get goosebumps when I hear about the 2010 World Cup. It will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Ghana are back on the world stage in Qatar and rather delightfully, Suarez is still in the Uruguay squad.
This is a chance for a nation to shake off a nightmare that has only gripped it for 12 long years.
Speaking ahead of the tournament about the rematch against Suarez, Ghana coach Otto Addo said: “I’m sure it will stick in the minds of some players because it was a decisive game, not only for the Ghana but for Africa as a whole.”
What do Ghana and Uruguay need to qualify?
Portugal have already secured their progress with two out of two wins but still need a point to be declared group winners.
Ghana are the only remaining rival for the top spot, but the Africans could still finish behind the two South Korea and Uruguay.
For these two teams, the equation is simple: win or go home. But even winning may not be enough: a win for Uruguay and South Korea would leave them tied on four points and separated solely on goal difference, while a win for South Korea would be academic if Ghana beat Uruguay and a point for Ghana coupled with a win for Korea would also make goal difference – and possibly goals scored – the ultimate arbiter.