Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPASTIMES -

WHEN Ghana fi­nally burst into the World Cup fi­nals for the first time in 2006, they made an in­stant im­pres­sion by emerg­ing from a tough group to qual­ify for the sec­ond round. This time around they will be looking to do even bet­ter.

The Black Stars were once a dom­i­nant force on the African con­ti­nent, winning the Africa Cup of Na­tions four times, al­though their last cham­pi­onship came in 1982.

They have strug­gled to match those heights since – but a strong per­for­mance in their in­au­gu­ral World Cup fi­nals seems to have sparked them back into life.

The Gha­ni­ans ar­rived in Ger­many un­fan­cied and a 2-0 de­feat at the boots of Italy in the first match did lit­tle to change per­cep­tions.

How­ever, the Black Stars re­cov­ered to shock the Czech Repub­lic 2-0 and then take out the United States 2-1, book­ing a slot in the sec­ond round at their first at­tempt.

The dream ended when they lost 3-0 to Brazil, a re­sult that be­lied a spir­ited per­for­mance and owed a lot to in­ept at­tempts at play­ing the off­side trap.

Ghana fol­lowed up their World Cup ex­ploits with a third place fin­ish in the 2008 Cup of Na­tions.

Qual­i­fi­ca­tion for South Africa was an easy af­fair. Ghana won their first four matches – against Benin, Mali and Su­dan twice – without con­ced­ing a goal, be­com­ing the first African team to qual­ify.

Two of Ghana's goalscor­ers in the 2006 World Cup – Sul­ley Mun­tari and Stephen Ap­piah – are once again ex­pected to be key to their chances in South Africa.

Ghana's pow­er­ful mid­field also boasts Chelsea's Michael Essien, viewed by many as the man whose bound­less en­ergy and abil­ity to cre­ate, score and de­fend could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween Ghana be­ing also-rans and con­tenders.

The Star: Michael Essien is known as 'The Bi­son' for his abil­ity to charge up and down the park with seem­ingly bound­less en­ergy. But Chelsea's Essien is far more re­fined than his nick­name would sug­gest, ca­pa­ble of scor­ing stun­ning goals and pick­ing out passes as well as shoring up the de­fence.

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