Although they have proved themselves one of the class sides in Africa over the last decade, Ghana and their supporters can be forgiven for feeling nervous about Group D as they try to reach a third consecutive FIFA World Cup™. Zambia and Sudan are outsiders in the section to be sure, but they are both dangerous dark horses that continental watchers were keeping an eye on heading into the draw.
The Ghanaians will know Sudan very well as the two met in qualifying for both South Africa 2010 and the 2012 Cup of Nations. The Sudanese held the Black Stars to a scoreless draw in Kumasi in October 2010, but otherwise the Ghanaians have won three times 2-0 in those preliminaries. Even more dangerous are Zambia, known as the Copper Bullets, who are known to be consistently on the precipice of making a major breakthrough on the world stage.
The Ghanaians have amassed enough credibility to be given the benefit of the doubt ahead of the start of play. Not only have they reached the last two FIFA World Cups, but they went further than any other African side in those two finals. They also reached the final of the continental championship in 2010, losing to Egypt in extra time, and finished third in 2008, along with winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009.
Zambia: The Chipolopolo have finished second in the Africa Cup of Nations twice, and they are perennial contenders, but they have never reached the FIFA World Cup. They were disappointing in the run-up to South Africa 2010 in a tough group with Egypt and Algeria, but they were a penalty shoot-out defeat to Nigeria away from the semi-finals of the last AFCON.
Sudan: One of Africa's early football trend-setters, Sudan won the 1970 Cup of Nations. However, they made little impact in recent decades until reaching the 2008 continental finals, where they disappointed. But the Sudanese have built on the back of a strong domestic league and are now no soft touch.
The crunch match
Although Sudan certainly seem a thorn in the side, the group should rest on the results between Ghana and Zambia. The two attack-minded teams have never met in FIFA World Cup qualifying, with the Ghanaians winning four of their six all-time encounters.
A look back
Ghana 2-0 Sudan, 6 September 2009, Accra
Ghana had won their first three matches in the final round of CAF qualifying for South Africa 2010, and this victory guaranteed them a spot in Africa's first finals with two matches to spare. Midfield icons Sulley Muntari and Essien did the scoring in the celebrating Ghanaian capital.
2 – The number of goals that Ghana need to reach 100 scored in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup.
Did you know?
Zambia and Sudan have played each other 15 times, with the Zambians edging the series by seven wins to five with three draws. They split a pair of matches in the qualifiers for France 1998.