Ghana's No. 1

Ghana aim to beat Australia at World Cup to reach last eight

Published on: 21 May 2010

They scored their first ever World Cup finals goal in Germany in 2006, surprised everyone by reaching the final 16 and want to go at least one step further this time.

That description might fit the Socceroos, but it also sums up their first round opponents from Ghana.

Like Australia, the Africans have built their success around a solid defence, with critics accusing them of being too negative and unadventurous in attack.

They notched impressive victories over the Czechs and Americans at their World Cup debut four years ago, and it took the might of Brazil to send them packing 3-0 at the first knock-outstage.

Their key players ply their trade in the major leagues of Europe, headed by Chelsea’s Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari of Inter Milan and captain Stephen Appiah of Bologna.

Essien became Africa’s most expensive footballer when he transferred to Chelsea from Olympique Lyonnaise for 26 million euro ($36.7 million) in 2005.

But "the bison", as he is known, has been sidelined by a knee injury for months, and, while hopeful, he may well be absent from the game’s biggest stage.

Ghana, which had the youngest squad in Germany, could again be forced to rely heavily on youth.

But its new crop of stars are a special breed - they won last year’s under-20 World Cup.

No fewer than six have made an impact at senior level already - defenders Samuel Inkoom, Lee Addy and Isaac Vorsah, and midfielders Kwadwo Asamoah, Anthony Annan and Andre Ayew, the son of Black Stars legend Abedi Pele.

Their Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac must balance his team with more seasoned campaigners such as Essien, if fit, and fellow English Premier League players in Wigan goalkeeperRichard Kingson, Fulham defender John Paintsil and Sunderland’s "rock of Gibraltar" John Mensah.

Portsmouth’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, who played in the FA Cup Final against Chelsea and made the ugly tackle that ruled German skipper Michael Ballack out of the Cup, will be another, having been cleared to play for Ghana after representing Germany at youth level.

Captain Stephen Appiah, known as the "tornado" for his midfield dynamism, is a born leader with a wealth of experience in Italy’sSerie A.

Rajevac has gone to great lengths to secure the services of Inter’s Sulley Muntari, who has had a rocky relationship with his national team since being sent home for disciplinary reasons from the Athens 2004 Olympics.

The 25-year-old midfielder was omitted from the squad that finished runner-up to Egypt in the African Nations Cup (ANC) in Angola in January.

The Socceroo defenders will want to make sure they don’t get caught napping like the Czechs did in Germany, when Asamoah Gyan netted inside 68 seconds for the fastest goal of the 2006 tournament.

In doing so he became Ghana’s answer to Tim Cahill, the first man to score a World Cup finals goal for his country.

Gyan, Ghana's top scorer at the ANC, came to grief later in the 2006 tournament when he was sent off against Brazil.

He was booked twice, the first time for trying to take a penalty too early, which he eventually missed, and the second for diving.

Source:  The Age

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