2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

Black Stars promise bold strategy

As they prepare to face mighty Brazil in their first-ever knockout match in a FIFA World Cup™, Ghana are readily professing their great admiration for the five-time winners.

But that does not necessarily mean the Black Stars intend to sit back and watch their illustrious opponents play. Aware of the quality within the ranks of the Auriverde, Ratomir Dujkovic and his players are also confident they can come up with a trick or two of their own.

"If you stop Ronaldinho, then there's Ronaldo. If you stop Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos pops up. And even if you manage to stop the Real Madrid wing-back, Cafu is there to torment you." This assessment made by Dujkovic is nothing if not frank: when you play against Brazil, the danger comes from everywhere.

For a country like Ghana, currently contesting their first FIFA World Cup in Germany, meeting Brazil at this stage of the tournament has all the makings of a dream come true. The flip side of the dream analogy, of course, is the inherent risk of going out onto the pitch in total awe of the opposition.

"As a player, you can only be excited at the prospect of facing the Brazilians," admits Stephen Appiah. But as one of Ghana's more experienced players who has actually played against the Seleção several times at youth level, Appiah has been impressing a few key points upon his younger team-mates. "We will need to be 120 per cent ready and must fight until the end in order to make everyone proud of us," he said.

Get the lowdown on Brazil v Ghana

'Sweat blood'

"I think we can beat Brazil because, despite all their stars, I don't think their side is as strong as it was," declares a confident Dujkovic. "In any case, I prefer to be playing the Brazilians now rather than in the Final, as they would be well and truly into their stride by then."

His players are very much in agreement with their coach, including youngsters such as Asamoah Gyan, who comes back into the side after a one-match ban. "If we press them high up the pitch, hopefully they won't be able to work their magic," said Gyan. With Sulley Muntari also returning after suspension, the sole source of concern this time around is the absence of the suspended human bulldozer Michael Essien, who is so essential to the deployment of Ghana's pressing game.

"He's very sad about it and we all feel for him too," said Appiah. "His services will be sorely missed and it's an enormous loss to the team. It's difficult to accept that someone who has asked us to sweat blood on the field of play will not be there with us."

That said, the Black Stars will no doubt be able to raise their game on the day to compensate for Essien's absence. For they have a dream, and playing Brazil on the world stage is not enough; they want to knock them out too.

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