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Soccer-Asamoah hopes 2010 experience can spur Ghana on

Reuters

By Angus MacSwan

LONDON, May 13 (Reuters) - Ghana midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah believes the Black Stars have put their disappointing exit from the 2010 World Cup firmly behind them and can draw on that experience to emerge from a tough group at next month's tournament.

Asamoah has been in terrific form for his Italian club side Juventus this season, helping them clinch the Serie A title, and will lead Ghana's charge in Brazil as they seek to become the first African team ever to reach the semi-finals.

"We're confident that we'll be able to give a good account of ourselves," Asamoah told Reuters in an e-mail interview a month ahead of a tournament where they will come up against Germany, Portugal and the U.S. in a tricky Group G.

"We're in a tough group, there's no denying that, but we go into the competition following a strong qualifying campaign in which we won five out of six games," the 25-year-old added.

"It's our third consecutive appearance in the World Cup finals, we hope to have a long run and we'll be doing all we possibly can to make that happen.

"I think you know what you're going to get from Germany... strong, well organised yet skilful opponents, who have a rich history in international tournaments.

"Portugal are blessed with technically gifted players and a true match-winner in Cristiano Ronaldo."

Despite beating the United States in the last two World Cups, Asamoah said it would be foolish to underestimate them.

"They're a different prospect under (German coach) Juergen Klinsmann, so we'll have to be on our guard," he added.

"If you enter any competition your ambition has to be to win it, and to do so you need to face strong teams at some stage. We have shown in the past that we can perform when others may have written us off - and we're confident we can do that again."

MOVED ON

The left-sided midfielder played in the quarter-final shootout loss to Uruguay in 2010, when striker Asamoah Gyan missed a last-minute penalty in extra time that would have earned Ghana a historic place in the semi-finals.

Asked about his memories of the match in Johannesburg and how it would affect the team this time, he said it was heartbreaking to lose in such a way.

"We thought we played well and had done enough to reach the semi-finals. To come that close to making history and then see it slip away is something you don't easily forget," he said.

"However, we've moved on and taken both the positives and negatives of the last campaign on board - and now we're fully determined to put our experience to good use in Brazil."

Comparing the 2010 team to the one heading to Brazil, Asamoah, Ghana's Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013, said the side had a new coach and there were other subtle differences.

"But the core group and principles remain the same. This is extremely important as it's enabled us to grow as a unit." he added.

"In addition, even more Ghanaians are now playing in Europe's top five leagues - this international experience will serve us in good stead."

The Accra-born Asamoah has played in Italy since 2008, first with Udinese then with Juve from 2012, and is happy with his performances this season despite being asked to play at left-back rather than in his preferred midfield role.

"(Juventus coach) Antonio Conte has shown his trust in me and I would like to think that I've repaid his belief with consistent displays. It's no secret that I perhaps struggled a little when I came back from the African Nations Cup last year.

"This season, we've had even more games to play but I feel I've benefited from the rest over the winter break." (Editing by John O'Brien)

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