2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

27 June: Expectation rising as old hands take centre stage

A place in the quarter-finals awaits the winners of Tuesday's tantalising Round of 16 ties, with Africa's last surviving representatives Ghana taking on reigning champions Brazil in the day's first game. As FIFA World Cup™ new boys, the Black Stars will be playing without the same burden of expectation as their illustrious opponents, or indeed old rivals France and Spain, who meet for the first time on world football's biggest stage in the evening game in Hanover.

The matches

Brazil-Ghana, 17:00 (CET), Dortmund
Brazil have won ten straight FIFA World Cup games and look to be building ominously towards something special. Even the much-derided Ronaldo has lost weight and relocated his scoring touch, and now stands on the verge of becoming the highest scorer in the history of the FIFA World Cup™. A goal against Ghana would do it, but the African side are brimming with confidence and have nothing to lose. Chelsea star Michael Essien misses out through suspension, yet his colleagues have no intention of succumbing to the Auriverde menace.

Spain-France, 21:00, Hanover
Les Bleus scraped through the group phase by registering their first FIFA World Cup win since 1998 at the expense of tournament debutants Togo, and they will be further boosted by Zinedine Zidane's return from suspension. They have never lost to Spain in a competitive match, but Luis Aragones' charges looked especially sharp as they cruised through the group stage. Certain to keep faithful to their spectacular 4-3-3 formation, La Selección start as slight favourites in Hanover.

The duel

In a contest between old club colleagues at opposite ends of their careers, the 34-year-old Zidane will need all his vast experience to find a way past Sergio Ramos in the heart of Spain's defence. At 20, the Real Madrid man is one of Spanish football's brightest prospects, and despite his admiration for Zidane, Ramos will do everything in his power to achieve the win that forces Zidane to hang up his boots. The former Sevilla star will surely have given his compatriots the inside track on Zizou's array of tricks, but his illustrious opponent is sure to have conducted a briefing of his own.

The absentees
Michael Essien (GHA)

Past meetings
France 2-0 Spain, 27 June 1984, Paris

These two European stalwarts have never met at the FIFA World Cup finals, but they have played out a raft of memorable encounters – not least the final of the 1984 UEFA European Championship. Also held on 27 June, that clash produced the infamous spectacle of Spanish goalkeeper Luis Arconada letting Michel Platini's free-kick slip under his body to open the scoring. It was an agonising moment for the excellent Basque keeper and sent Les Bleus on the way to claiming their first major trophy.

The question
Can Ghana keep the Brazilian steamroller at bay without Essien? The lungs in the Black Stars' midfield and master of all he surveys, Essien misses this all-or-nothing tie through suspension. Having completed 165 passes in the tournament so far (average of 55 per game) and taken aim with 11 shots, he will be sorely missed by a squad that simply does not possess the same reserves of talent as the Pentacampeão.

The figures
700: Spain-France is the 700th match in FIFA World Cup history.
27: the number of times France and Spain have met, with 11 victories for Spain, ten for France and six draws.
19: the number of FIFA World Cup matches contested by Brazil right-back Cafu if he faces Ghana – a new record.
8: the number of goals conceded by Ghana in their only previous meeting with Brazil, an 8-2 loss back in 1996.

Spain forward Raul turns 29 today and could have even more reasons to celebrate if things go his way. Apart from the prospect of securing a quarter-final berth, a goal against the French would see the Real Madrid man become the leading Spanish scorer in FIFA World Cup history with six strikes.

A FIFA World Cup blast from the past
27 June 1994, Germany 3-2 Korea Republic, Dallas
World champions Germany must have thought they were cruising to victory after surging three goals ahead on 37 minutes, but an inspired Korean comeback saw them clinging to a 3-2 win at the final whistle. The hero that day with a brace for the Mannschaft was current coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Not a lot of people know this
After picking up a yellow card and a suspension against Korea Republic, a furious Zinedine Zidane took his anger out on a door in the Leipzig changing room. Stadium officials initially considered charging for the damage, before deciding to leave the boot print as a Hollywood Walk of Fame-style souvenir from one of the game's true legends. Their only worry now is a spate of copycat attacks.

Having a laugh
"This is not a football game but a card game." FIFAworldcup.com Fan Chat user Kim Chan-Ju on the Portugal-Netherlands match.

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