The Ghana national football team, popularly known as the Black Stars, qualified for the first time for the FIFA World Cup finals in 2006 and reached the last 16 in Germany. With the rest of their continental colleagues losing in the first group stage, Ghana gave the whole of Africa reason to cheer and won many admirers with their attacking style of football and fearless attitude.
They were drawn in an immensely difficult group with eventual winners Italy, the Czech Republic, then ranked No.2 in the World, and the United States. Many observers gave them little chance of qualifying for the knockout stages, but after losing to Italy in the opening match, they beat the Czechs 2-0 and the United States 2-1.
Ghana's run ended when they met the 2002 World Champions Brazil in the second round and lost 3-0, a match in which they were unlucky to be without influential player Michael Essien, who was serving a suspension for two yellow cards in the group stage.
After going through 2005 unbeaten, Ghana had won the FIFA Most Improved Team of the Year award and by the time they reached the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup they looked like veterans of the competition, enchanting fans around the world with their own brand of quick, free-flowing football. They were also the youngest team in the tournament with an average age of 23 yrs 352 days.
Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic said: “I'm really proud of my players. They fought hard and got further than they were ever expecting. I think the whole world will learn to respect Ghanaian football, and that's exactly what it deserves. There are so many good players in this country it would have been unfair and unthinkable not to see them at a senior World Cup after so many appearances at youth level.”