2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

Fledgling rivalry reaches maturity

Ghanaian football fans would rather forget the only time their senior side took on five-time world champions Brazil. In a friendly game held in the city of Sao Jose do Rio Preto, in Sao Paulo, the West Africans were dealt an emphatic 8-2 thrashing by a young Auriverde outfit preparing for the 1996 Olympic Football Tournament, where they would take the bronze medal.

Given the context of the game, that one-sided friendly cannot be taken as an accurate barometer of the two sides' chances on Tuesday in Dortmund. In fact, it would make more sense to take a look at a number of decisive clashes between the two countries at U-17 and U-20 level, where Ghana have more than held their own against their illustrious rivals.

From six encounters, both teams have emerged victorious on three occasions, although one of Brazil's wins came from the penalty spot after a 2-2 semi-final draw at the FIFA U-17 World Championship New Zealand 1999. Curiously enough, each of these games featured players who are now representing their countries at Germany 2006.

Get the lowdown on Brazil v Ghana

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In 1991, Brazil and Ghana faced off for the first time, in the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Italy. On the substitutes' bench that day were two players who would go on to enjoy glittering careers for their senior national sides: Ghana defender Samuel Kuffour and O Fenômeno himself, Ronaldo. Ghana won the game 2-1.

In 1993, the two sides crossed swords again, this time in the Final of the FIFA World Youth Championship in Australia. By this time Kuffour had made a starting place his own and keeping goal for the Brazilians was current AC Milan shotstopper Dida. The Verdeamarelos took revenge for their 1991 defeat, coming back from a goal down to win 2-1.

Two years later, the Black Starlets took on their Brazilian counterparts in the Final of the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Ecuador. Stephen Appiah, Ghana's captain at Germany 2006, was an unused substitute, obliged to look on as his team-mates strode to a glorious 3-2 win. Two members of the current Brazil squad started for the U-17 side that day: Inter Milan's Julio Cesar was between the sticks while the present-day Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Juan was one of Brazil's scorers.

In what was becoming a recurring theme, Brazilians and Ghanaians once again squared off in the Final of the U-17 tournament in 1997. A Ronaldinho-led Seleção overturned a first-half deficit to win the game 2-1, with Daniel Quaye featuring for the West Africans.

Down in New Zealand in 1999, the two teams lined up for a third consecutive meeting at a decisive stage of the FIFA U-17 World Championship. In the Brazil team was Adriano, while Ghana looked to a young Michael Essien and Razak Pimpong for inspiration. After a hard-fought 2-2 draw, it was the Brazilians who kept their nerve from 12 yards to go through to the Final.

The sixth and most recent clash between the two sides featured a glut of players currently starring for their countries on world football's biggest stage. At the quarter-final stage of the FIFA World Youth Championship Argentina 2001, Brazil's Adriano, Kaka and Luisao took to the field against a Ghana side containing no less than eight members of their 2006 FIFA World Cup™ squad.

As well as Essien and Pimpong, Sulley Muntari, Emmanuel Pappoe, Derek Boateng, John Pantsil, reserve keeper George Owu and striker John Mensah all featured as Ghana triumphed 2-1, Mensah capping a stirring fightback with a 93rd-minute winner.

Given the history between the two teams, the defending champions can expect nothing less than an extremely difficult contest against a top-class opponent. In the words of Auriverde coach Carlos Alberto Parreira: "They are a brave and aggressive team. African football is technically similar to the South American game. Besides which, the naivety they once showed is now most definitely a thing of the past."

His Brazil side would do well to heed the wise words of their experienced coach, should they wish to continue on their quest for a sixth FIFA World Cup™ title.

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