Black Stars aim to shine at World Cup

Ghana aim to give their long-suffering fans something to smile about when they make their World Cup debut after a 44-year wait to play in the finals.

One of Africa’s most powerful footballing nations, the “Black Stars” have won the Nations Cup four times while their clubs and teams have dominated continental and junior international competitions.

Yet despite such an enviable track record and the presence of such top-class stars like Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah, the “Brazil of Africa” failed to reach a World Cup until this year.

A disunited dressing room has been blamed for the country’s previous failures to rub shoulders with the cream of world football.

“They had good players, like now, but the problem was that they were not united. Abedi Pele was with his group, Yeboah had his group, there were divisions,” said Russian-based midfielder Laryea Kingston.

“That was the problem why we couldn’t make it to the World Cup. Now most of this team has graduated from the youth level, we know each other from then.
We are all doing the same things we did when we were younger.”

Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic, who ironically plotted Ghana’s downfall two years ago when he was in charge of Rwanda, has been widely credited with the west African nation’s historic passage to Germany 2006.

The tactically astute coach has got his mainly Europe-based stars to play as a team and “Doya” has done that on his own terms.

So much so that he kept out top star Sammy Kuffour after a well documented row and only recalled the experienced defender when he apologised.

The often broke Ghana Football Association (GFA) have also received proper funding through several lucrative sponsorship contracts and this allowed them to call up their best players scattered across Europe.

Goalkeeper Sammy Adjei, defenders John Mensah and John Pantsil as well as midfielder Michael Essien have graduated from the team that lost to hosts Argentina in the 2001 Fifa World Championship to establish themselves at full international level.

Chelsea star Essien and Sulley Ali Muntari missed the African Nations Cup in Egypt through injury and this told on the team’s performance as they failed to make it past the group stage of the tournament.

However, they will reunite in Germany along with Appiah to form one of the most complete midfield combinations around which provided ten of the 17 goals the team scored in qualification.

The team’s biggest drawback though is that they still lack a proven goal scorer.

Along with midfielder Appiah, injury-troubled Matthew Amoah and Asamoah Gyan were the team’s leading scorers on the road to Germany with three goals apiece.

Joetex Frimpong, who has rattled in goals for Nigerian champions in the CAF Champions League in the last three years, failed to find the back of the net at the Nations Cup.

Germany-based Isaac Boakye is doubtful for the World Cup after suffering a knee injury.

Ghana are hugely indebted to their fans for their faith and there could be no better or bigger stage to repay this confidence than at the World Cup, where they are drawn against Italy, the United States and the Czech Republic in the first round.

Ghana President John Kufuor said the Black Stars are capable of winning the cup at first attempt but Roma defender Sammy Kuffour said a more realistic target would first be to go past the first round.

“The most important thing is to go beyond this group. We will not make much of an impression if we fall short,” said Kuffour.

“To play against Italy, one of the World Cup favourites, in our opening game is a huge incentive. We have a good track record against Italy in various youth and junior competitions and so we really fancy our chances against them.”

He added: “The Czech Republic are also a big nation with world-class players while the USA have shown they can raise their game when it matters most and this won’t be different in Germany.” - Sapa-AFP

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