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06.03.2007 Football News

Ghana, Brazil Clash March 27

Ghana's impressive post-World Cup unbeaten run faces a litmus test later this month when the Black Stars face Brazil in an international friendly match in Stockholm, Sweden, in what has been billed a revenge mission for Ghana.

The Ghana-Brazil match on March 27 will come off three days after the Black Stars have taken on Austria in another friendly encounter in the Austrian city of Graz on the same day that the Brazilians have a date with Chile in the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

It was the Brazilians who ended Ghana's fine run at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany with a 3-0 victory in a game that was largely aided by biased officiating by Slovak referee Michel Lubos.

Since Ghana's World Cup exit on June 27 last year, the Stars have gone five matches without defeat and exactly nine months later the two sides square off in a match that has only pride at stake, with both teams under new technical direction, former international star Dunga now in charge of Brazil while Frenchman Claude Le Roy has been handling the reins of the Stars since September.

Le Roy has guided the team to three victories and a draw, the last being an emphatic 4-1 thrashing of Nigeria, and the March 27 game against the world's second-ranked team will be yet another challenge for the Frenchman who claims his focus is on building a team capable of winning the 2008 African Cup of Nations tournament rather than achieving some memorable results in international friendlies.

However, given Brazil's status in world football and Ghana's painful World Cup defeat at the hands of the South Americans, a famous victory over the world's second ranked team will give Ghana some bragging rights and settle old scores.

The Black Stars, for all their pedigree, have never beaten the Selecao at the highest level. The last two encounters between the two sides ended in resounding victories for the South Americans.

For those who believe in numerology, the Stockholm match is of interesting coincidence as it falls on the 27th day of the month with goalkeepers Richard Kingson and Dida on either side of the pitch.

Incidentally, the Stockholm game comes exactly 11 years after Brazil hammered Ghana 8-2 in an international friendly in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Ghana's in-form goalie, Kingson, has harrowing memories of the two encounters with the five-time world champions, who fired four goals past him.

He conceded one goal in the 1996 game before he was substituted, injured, and a decade later he was in brilliant form but conceded three goals in the epic World Cup second round clash in Dortmund.

Similarly, his opposite number, Dida, was in post in their last two clashes between the Stars and the Selecao.

The AC Milan goalie has been on the winning side twice when Brazil beat Ghana 2-1 in the final of the FIFA Under-20 Championship in Australia and the 3-2 win over the Black Meteors at the Atlanta '96 Olympics.

Barring any injury, Coach Le Roy's team will be at full strength and will include midfield powerhouse Michael Essien, who was suspended from the last encounter at Germany 2006, and striker Asamoah Gyan, who was red-carded in the match.

Ghana can, though, boast of memorable victories over Brazil but only in FIFA age-group competitions, particularly a 2-1 win in the semi-finals of the 1991 FIFA Under-17 Championship and a 3-2 win in the final of the 1995 edition in Ecuador.

Story by Maurice Quansah

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