FIFA World Cup 2010 Group D Preview: Ghana
Despite being the second most successful team in the history of the African Nations Cup with four tournament wins, Ghana only made their World Cup debut in Germany four years ago.
Nicknamed the Black Stars and one of the founding members of the Confederation of African Football, they were the first African nation to win a medal at the Olympic Games.
Last Time Out
Drawn in a tough group in 2006, Ghana opened the tournament with a defeat to eventual winner Italy (0-2) but upset the more fancied Czech Republic (2-0) and defeated the USA (2-1) to progress to the knock-out stages, where they were comprehensively defeated 3-0 by Brazil.
Appointed in 2008 to succeed Claude Le Roy, Rajevac has fared better than others in withstanding the intense spotlight thrust upon the incumbent by the Ghanaian media and public.
The Serbian national previously took unfashionable FC Vojvodina to third place in the Meridian Superliga, winning a place in the UEFA Cup. He will lead the Black Stars against his country men on June 13th.
A key player for club side Chelsea, Essien’s extraordinary fitness and versatility rank him as one of the most valuable players in the world. Nicknamed "the Bison" by former Lyon teammates because of his physical strength, Essien is in doubt for the tournament after failing to recover from an injury sustained playing at the African Cup of Nations in January.
An attacking midfielder who rose to prominence at the last tournament in Germany, Muntari won the FA Cup playing for Portsmouth under Harry Redknapp before earning a move to Internazionale, where he was featured intermittently, often from the bench.
One of Ghana’s few key players not to arrive at the tournament under an injury cloud, Muntari’s energy and attacking instinct will be relied upon to create opportunities for teammates.
One to watch
One of a number of players to impress in their World Cup debut in 2006, Gyan showed flashes of promise at Udinese before succumbing to injury in January 2008 and falling out of favour at the Italian club.
He joined Stade Rennais in July of the same year and has scored 14 goals in 41 appearances with the French club. Still only 24, Ghana will look to the livewire forward to find form and produce goals on football’s biggest stage.
Match 8: Serbia vs. Ghana 13/6 16.00 (Pretoria)
Match 24: Ghana vs. Australia 19/6 16.00 (Rustenburg)
Match 39: Ghana vs. Germany 23/6 20.30 (Johannesburg)
With key players Michael Essien, John Mensah and captain Stephen Appiah among eight regulars doubtful due to injury in the lead up to the tournament, Ghana may struggle to progress from one of the hardest groups.
They open the tournament against a Serbian team short on star names, but who are highly organised and finished atop of a qualifying group that included France.
Next up are an equally organised Australian team who defend from the front and are now greatly experienced at the international level. If they fail to take points in these games, victory against perennial contenders Germany in the final game is a tall order.
With so many potential absentees and a tough draw, Ghana will struggle to match their showing in 2006. But if enough players prove their fitness in time for the first game, they will be in with as much chance as Australia and Serbia of finishing second, where a tie against either England or the USA would be the likely reward.
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