Ghana look to shine brighter second time around (Team Profile)November 25th, 2009 - 6:27 pm ICT by IANS
Nairobi/Accra, Nov 25 (DPA) When Ghana finally burst into the World Cup finals for the first time in 2006, they made an instant impression by emerging from a tough group to qualify for the second round. This time around they will be looking to do even better.
The Black Stars were once a dominant force on the African continent, winning the Africa Cup of Nations four times, although their last championship came in 1982.
They have struggled to match those heights since failing to even qualify for the Cup of Nations four times - but a strong performance in their inaugural World Cup finals seems to have sparked them back into life.
The Ghanaians arrived in Germany unfancied and a 2-0 defeat at the boots of Italy in the first match did little to change perceptions.
However, the Black Stars recovered to shock the Czech Republic 2-0 and then take out the United States 2-1, booking a slot in the second round at their first attempt.
The dream ended when they lost 3-0 to Brazil, a result that belied a spirited performance and owed a lot to inept attempts at playing the offside trap.
Ghana followed up their World Cup exploits with a third place finish on home turf in the 2008 Cup of Nations, losing 1-0 to Cameroon in the semi-finals and then defeating Ivory Coast 4-2 in the third-place playoff.
Qualification for South Africa was an easy affair. Ghana won their first four matches against Benin, Mali and Sudan twice without conceding a goal, becoming the first African team to qualify.
However, the Black Stars celebrated their feat with a 1-0 reversal against Benin, conceding their first goal in the qualifying stages.
Two of Ghana’s goalscorers in the 2006 World Cup - Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah - are once again expected to be key to their chances in South Africa.
Midfielder Muntari, 25, has struggled at times for Inter Milan this season, but has proven that he can change the course of a game.
Captain Stephen Appiah, 28, remained a regular for the national side despite being without a club for over a year from June 2008, as concerns over his fitness discouraged teams from stepping in for him.
His time in the wilderness ended when Serie A outfit Bologna signed him in November, delighting Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac, who now expects his captain to lead Ghana to a strong performance in South Africa.
Ghana’s powerful midfield also boasts Chelsea’s Michael Essien, 26, viewed by many as the man whose boundless energy and ability to create, score and defend could be the difference between Ghana being also-rans and contenders for the later stages of the tournament.
Serbian Milovan Rajevac was a little-known name when he took over Ghana from Frenchmen Claude Le Roy in August 2008.
He still is. Rajevac, 55, spent much of his playing and management career in his homeland, with Red Star Belgrade being the highest-profile club he managed.
Rajevac was guiding provincial club FK Borak through the UEFA Cup qualifiers when he was handed the Ghana job.
Michael Essien, 28, is known as ‘The Bison’ for his ability to charge up and down the park with seemingly boundless energy.
But Chelsea’s Essien is far more refined than his nickname would suggest, capable of storing stunning goals and picking out passes as well as shoring up the defence.
Essien is a perennial nominee for the FIFA World Player of the Year award without ever winning the gong and was the driving force behind Ghana’s third-place finish in the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nickname: The Black Stars
FIFA affiliation: 1958
Highest FIFA ranking: 14 - February 2008 (first achieved)
Lowest FIFA ranking: 89 - June 2004
Previous World Cup appearances: 1 (2006)
Best World Cup performance: Round of 16 (2006)
Date qualified for finals: September 6, 2009
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- Ghana announce squad for 2014 World Cup qualifiers - May 19, 2012
- US seek revenge as Ghana fly the flag for Africa - Jun 25, 2010
- Ghana ready to make footballing history - Jul 02, 2010
- Rajevac warns Ghana against complacency - Jun 18, 2010
- Ghana third best African side on FIFA ranking - Sep 06, 2012
- Ghana names Maxwell Konadu as assistant coach - May 04, 2012
- Germany, Ghana through after German victory (Lead) - Jun 24, 2010
- Ghana to play China in international friendly - Jul 21, 2012
- Germany set up England clash, Ghana salvage African pride (Roundup) - Jun 24, 2010
- Uruguay end African fairy tale, earn spot in semis (Lead) - Jul 03, 2010
- Vuvuzelas will now blow loudly for Ghana - Jun 29, 2010
Tags: accra, africa cup of nations, african continent, black stars, dominant force, game captain, ghanaians, home turf, inaugural world, inter milan, ivory coast, midfielder, muntari, nairobi, offside trap, semi finals, spirited performance, stephen appiah, team profile, world cup finals