by Christopher Shepard
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The Ghana Black Stars will play in the World Cup for the first time in more than forty years. In their history of international soccer, Ghana has never qualified for a World Cup finals, but Ghana has won the prestigious African Cup of Nations four times and won the under 17-Champions twice. The Black Stars are four times CAF/African Cup of Nations Champions but have not won a significant title since 1987.
Ghana knows how to win big tournaments on their own continent -- but they just haven't had the talent and power to do so on an international level. The Black Stars have tried and failed to qualify for World Cup since 1962 but finally cashed their ticket to Germany by defeating Cape Verde in the Qualifiers.
There are questions about Team Ghana's ability to do well in their first World Cup after they were bounced out of the CAF African Cup Nations qualifiers last year. Ghana now has to focus their attention on Germany and just how they will handle one of the hardest draws of the tournament; Group E. This won't be an easy task for No. 70-ranked Ghana as they will play three top 12 world ranked teams in Round 1; a much improved USA (No. 7), the dominating Czech Republic (No. 2) and World Cup super-power Italy (No. 12).
Losing in the qualifiers of the African Nations Cup is not a way to inspire confidence in your team manager. It seems like the German Nationals aren't the only ones dissatisfied with their team's manager. As Ghana celebrates their Independence Day, the Deputy Minister of Sports, Hon. Osei Bonsu Amoah, has questioned the ability of Serbian manager Ratomir Djukovic to lead Ghana deep into World Cup play.
However, Djukovic has put this criticism behind him and Ghana played well in their friendly against Mexico on March 1, ultimately losing 1-0. But the close match should do something to bolster Ghana's confidence as they were competitive against a Mexican squad that brought in many of its top players, including goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez and forwards Jared Borgetti and Omar Bravo.
Ghana World Cup 2006 Odds: Bodog opened Ghana as a long shot to win the 2006 World Cup at 190/1 odds but Ghana has risen to 250/1 at some spots.
Strengths: It might not be readily apparent to casual observers of international soccer, but Ghana has a few international stars that could help the African nation's bid in the World Cup. Ghana boasts the most expensive African player ever in midfielder Michael Essien, but the heart and soul of the Black Stars is Captain Stephen Appiah, who is the undisputed leader of the team and is vital to Ghana's success. Indeed Appiah was the catalyst behind Ghana's qualifying effort for the World Cup along with Haminu Dramani's wing play and agility of goalkeeper Sammy Adjei, all of whom are standouts on the Ghanaian squad. Another young talented Ghanian, who was inexplicably left off the African Nations Cup squad, is powerful striker Isaac Boakye.
Weaknesses: While qualifying for the World Cup has been the salve for Ghanaian soccer supporters, it is hard to look past the fact that Ghana failed to qualify for the African Championships for the first time since 1990. However, Ghana's failure in Nations Cup qualifiers should benefit manager Dujkovic when examining his team's weaknesses. A few that stand out are the lack of depth in Ghana's squad. Specifically the Black Stars' striking squad needs reinforcements and experience which, Ghana is lacking, This was more than evident in the Nations Cup. Another hole in Ghana's play is the inexperience in defense and lack of scoring threats on the front line. These issues will all need to be solved by Dujkovic if Ghana hopes to move beyond the first round.
Ghana World Cup 2006 Outlook: What an exciting time for team Ghana and Ghana's soccer supporters. Out of the African contingent, it is Ghana that seems to have the ability to make it through to the second round, but it will be very difficult for the Black Stars to get by Italy, Czech Republic and the USA. However, they do have the ability to win and perhaps cause an upset or two against teams who do not take them as a serious threat.
The Black Stars are four times CAF/African Cup of Nations as well as CSSA Nations Cup but have not won a significant title since 1987. Even in the most favorable conditions and draw Ghana would have a hard time moving beyond the first round in the World Cup. Considering the Black Stars' tough opener against Italy with the Czech Republic on tap five days later, Ghana could be eliminated from the first round by June 22 for their match against the USA. It is unlikely that the Black Stars will move on to Round 2, but it is certainly a step forward for Ghana that they made it to the World Cup after four decades of trying.
Ghana World Cup 2006 First Round Match Schedule (all times local):
Mon 12 June 21:00 Group E1 Italy v Group E2 Ghana at Hanover
Sat 17 June 18:00 Group E4 Czech Republic vs. Group E2 Ghana at Cologne
Thu 22 June 16:00 Group E2 Ghana v Group E3 USA at Nuremburg
Updated Ghana World Cup 2006 News: