2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

<I>Azzurri</I> open against first-timers

With the support of thousands of Italians living and working on German soil, Italy will be looking for a good start against FIFA World Cup™ debutants Ghana in the second game in Group E on 12 June, which kicks off at 21:00 CET at the FIFA World Cup Stadium Hanover .

View the Germany 2006 match schedule

Colours for the game

Italy: blue shirt, blue shorts, blue socks
Ghana: white shirt, white shorts, white socks

The players
The backbone of Marcello Lippi's Italy side is the same as the one that so impressed in qualifying, with rising stars like Alberto Gilardino and Daniele De Rossi playing alongside the experienced Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro. Luca Toni, a goal machine in Serie A this season, will bear the brunt of the Azzurri's striking responsibility until Roma idol Francesco Totti returns to full match fitness.

Ghana's Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic is particularly well supplied in the midfield area. Experienced captain Stephen Appiah and Chelsea star Michael Essien are proven top-class performers, good enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with their more fancied opponents. Particular attention should also be paid to experienced defender Samuel Kuffour, midfielder Sulley Muntari and young striker Asamoah Gyan, all three of whom play their football in Italy and have an added incentive to impress.

How they qualified
Italy dominated their qualifying group, chalking up seven victories, two draws and only one defeat, 1-0 in Slovenia. The Black Stars topped their group thanks in the main to two exhilarating wins against South Africa, the 2010 FIFA World Cup host nation.

Past meetings
Italy and Ghana have never met in a full international. However, Ghana boast an unbeaten record against Italy in other FIFA competitions. In 1993, they ran out easy 4-0 winners in the FIFA U-17 World Championship, following this up with a 3-2 victory at the 1996 Olympic Football Tournament in Atlanta. The latest meeting, at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, ended in a 2-2 draw.

Tournament history
Italy are making their 17th FIFA World Cup finals appearance and claimed the famous Trophy in 1934, 1938 and 1982, as well as finishing runners-up twice. Between 1990 and 2002 the Azzurri have had their hopes ended three times on penalties and once by a Golden Goal. Ghana, on the other hand, are making their FIFA World Cup finals debut.

Key contest
Daniele De Rossi will face a serious test of his credentials against Michael Essien . The young Italy midfielder, deputising for the injured Gennaro Gattuso, is a hard-working figure in the centre, who is not short of vision in the final third. He will not have it easy against talented Chelsea midfielder Essien, who complements his incredible energy levels with an eye for goal, three vital strikes in qualifying underlining his importance to the Ghanaian cause.

The coaches
Having replaced Giovanni Trapattoni after UEFA EURO 2004, Lippi has enjoyed considerable success in imposing his winning formula on the national side. The Tuscan-born manager's experience of domestic and European success with Juventus has clearly been put to good use. For his part, the Dujkovic can point to vast international coaching experience, much of it in Africa, culminating in Ghana's historic first qualification for the FIFA World Cup finals. Previous successes include taking Rwanda to the finals of the CAF African Cup of Nations in 2004. He took charge of the Black Stars from Portuguese coach Mariano Barreto with the FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign already under way.

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