Through late April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Ghana. Click here for the full archive.
FIFA world ranking: No. 48.
How they qualified for Germany: Won Africa's Group 2 with a 6-1-3 record.
Previous World Cups: None.
Manager: Ratomir Dujkovic, second year with team.
Michael Essien, the Black Stars' 23-year-old midfield dominator, led Lyon to the past two French titles before making a $43 million move to Chelsea this season (qualifying him as the most expensive player in African soccer history). "The Bison" missed January's African Cup of Nations with an ankle injury, but the teams in Group E of the World Cup (Italy, Czech Republic and the United States) will have a hard time matching his vast talents as a midfield destroyer.
Captain Stephen Appiah is a dangerous central midfielder who has the ability to create goals (as he did in Ghana's huge 2-0 World Cup qualifying win at South Africa last June) or scoring them himself. Also intriguing is the recent return of defender Sammy Kuffour, who appears to have ironed out his conflicts with Ghana's federation in time for the biggest year in his country's soccer history. Kuffour will bring plenty of big-game experience to a back line that could use some.
What to watch for
The Black Stars have always been one of the great mysteries of African soccer, somehow winning a record four African Cup of Nations titles and two world under-17 crowns without ever qualifying for the World Cup -- until now. Their run through World Cup qualifying was truly remarkable, sparking a national embarrassment for 2010 Cup host South Africa. Aside from Essien, Ghana doesn't have any superstars, but Dujkovic's outfit is blessed with good chemistry and plenty of speed. Dujkovic may have been unsuccessful in prying Freddy Adu from the U.S.'s clutches, but his team could give the U.S. fits on the field.
You'd think it would be no small task to get scouting materials on Ghana, but the U.S. should actually be in pretty good shape for its preparations. Assistant coach Curt Onalfo was in attendance at Ghana's opening match at the Cup of Nations in Egypt, and the Black Stars also played Mexico in March in Dallas. Ghana lost that match 1-0, but eight of its likely starting XI for Germany were on hand. U.S. head coach Bruce Arena is a preparation freak, and will likely know this team in time.
Group: E (Italy, United States, Czech Republic).
Key match in group stage: June 12 vs. Italy. Ghana could get a huge kick-start to its World Cup campaign if it can secure a tie or a win against the notoriously slow-starting Italians.