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.