by Courtney Kealy

When the USA took to the field in the fading light of the Southern African winter, they were suddenly a force to be reckoned with.

This supposedly non-soccer playing nation had held the much vaunted England to a draw and finished top of their group.

But in Rustenburg, they were meeting an African team on African soil.

The wail of the vuvuzelas greeted Ghana, known as the Black Stars, as they took the lead in the first five minutes. The celebrations after the goal were loud enough as if to echo across the continent, full of pride to be hosting its first ever World Cup.

South Africans had poured into the stadium to support Ghana; the last African team still standing in the tournament.  The USA fans were outnumbered, and the team was soon outplayed by the agile Ghanaian side.

Their hopes were briefly revived by a dramatic penalty kick by Landon Donovan. The USA tied the score and the game went into extra time.

The drone of the vuvuzelas became a roar, but with one last goal by Ghana the USA's ambitions of reaching the quarter finals came to an end.

Then came the victory celebrations from Ghana's players; a dance of ecstasy, marking their elevation to hero status in African soccer.  The coaches shook hands, and the players exchanged jerseys.

It may have been a defeat for the USA, but they have emerged from this tournament having won the respect of soccer fans around the world.  The American fans streamed away from the stadium, disappointed but still full of pride for their team.  Donovan, Howard, Bocanegro and the other US players came into this World Cup as outsiders in the top ranks of international soccer, but their names are now recognized far beyond South African soil.

FOX News Radio's Courtney Kealy, reporting from the World Cup in South Africa by any and all means necessary