Friday, May 14, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: Ghana

We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.

Appearance: Second overall, second consecutive
Last time there: 2006, lost in second round
Best performance: Second round (2006)

For such an inexperienced side -- at least in the World Cup -- there is a lot of buzz about Ghana.

That buzz could work against this African group. They're a staple of soccer in that continent, as they're tied with Egypt for the most finals appearances in the history of the African Nations Cup (eight). Expectations for this team were brought up by their surprising run to the second round four years ago, where their World Cup was abruptly ended by a superior Brazilian team.

The "Black Stars," as they're known, qualified rather easily for South Africa, as they were the first of the teams from that continent to make it in the World Cup.

Now, they need to lean on their front-line stars, as depth is quite questionable on this team. Talent, however, is not.

They have striker Asamoah Gyan, who didn't score in four qualifying matches, but is highly unlikely to be shut out in the World Cup. Matthew Amoah, who scored five in qualifiers, should see some time in South Africa. Michael Essien, teammates with Germany's Michael Ballack on English club team Chelsea, is the most notable player on the Ghana roster. Essien is still under 30, and he has become a global star because of his ability to overpower opponents, as well as his consistent level of play. He doesn't take many matches off, and he should be at his best in this tournament.

Defender Isaac Vorsah plays club soccer in Germany, and while Ghana didn't use him much in qualifying, he was a big part of their AFC earlier this year.

Speaking of the AFC, watch for potential friction with midfielder Sulley Muntari, who can help this team, but was left off that team after he refused to play in a friendly. If there are any lingering hard feelings, it could impact Ghana's chances as they try to grind out wins over Serbia and Australia, which would help them take the pressure off when they close group play against the favored Germans.

June 13 vs. Serbia (Pretoria)
June 19 vs. Australia (Rustenburg)
June 23 vs. Germany (Johannesburg -- Soccer City)

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