(CNN) -- A late penalty by Asamoah Gyan handed Ghana a deserved 1-0 victory against Serbia in the opening Group D match played in Pretoria on Sunday.
The striker, who plays for French club Rennes, emphatically converted from the spot past Vladimir Stojkovic in the 84th minute to the obvious delight of the partisan crowd.
The victory was the first by an African team at this year's World Cup.
Ghana were awarded their penalty after Serbia substitute Zdravko Kuzmanovic needlessly hand-balled a cross which looked to be drifting harmlessly out of his team's penalty area.
Amid delirious celebrations of the African supporters in the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Serbia struggled to find an equalizer and it was Ghana, the four-time African champions, who should have made it 2-0 before the final whistle.
Ghana -- popularly known as the Black Stars -- started the match at a high tempo and created chances throughout the match, never allowing the Serbian defense to settle.
This attacking pattern was set early on when Rosenborg midfielder Anthony Annan volleyed the ball wide after two minutes and Ghana's captain John Mensah headed a free kick wide of the far post in the 19th minute.
Ghana continued to press forward in the second half and came closest to scoring when Gyan rose high above the Serbian defense meeting a long throw from John Pantsil, only to head the ball just wide of Stojkovic's left post.
Serbia created fewer chances than their opponents but probably had the better opportunities to score.
The giant Serbia striker Nikola Zigic should have given his country the lead in the 58th minute when he met Dejan Stankovic's cross at the far post but his control let him down and the ball dribbled away to safety.
And later, when Serbia had been reduced to 10 men after Aleksandar Lukovic received his second yellow card in the 73rd minute, Serbia squandered a fantastic opportunity to break the deadlock.
Striker, Danko Lazovic broke away from Fulham's John Pantsil on the left goal-line and managed to cut the ball back into the middle of the area which Milos Krasic then struck fiercely at goalkeeper Richard Kingson, who parried the ball to safety.
The resulting corner saw Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic narrowly head over the crossbar.
Serbia meet Germany next Friday in Port Elizabeth, while Ghana play Australia in Rustenburg on Saturday.