The senior national soccer team, the Black Stars of Ghana takes a giant step in their 2006 World Cup preparations as they encounter a German 1st division side, VFB Stuttgart in an international friendly at the Wurzburg Kickers Stadium in Wurzburg this afternoon.
The match which is one of several other friendlies lined up for the Black Stars by the head coach of the team, Ratomir Dujkovic, is aimed at assessing a few other local players and their foreign colleagues who have not yet been okayed by the coach. In a call up of players for this assignment, all 18 players had reported to the Black Stars camp here in Wurzburg by 6pm Ghana time and are brimming with confidence ahead of the big game.
The German side, who are lying eighth on the Bundesliga, and have played 31 matches, won 8, drawn 16 and lost 7, have vowed to give the Black Stars a good run for their money.
Armin Veh, the current part-time coach was last week given the job on a full-time basis and can begin planning for the future. Whether that includes the same players he inherited from Giovanni Trapattoni remains to be seen and that is where the motivation-factor comes in with his current crop of players now aware they are playing for their own personal futures at the club.
He has already been busy building his squad for next season with one new face already confirmed. Midfielder Antonio da Silva will arrive from Mainz in June. No new faces are likely in the starting XI tomorrow, however, as Veh sticks to the players who he thinks can deliver where and when it matters most. Their next league match is against Bayern Munich in Munich on Tuesday.
This is the first friendly match the Black Stars are playing here in Germany ahead of the forth-coming 2006 FIFA World Cup to be hosted in Germany between June 9 and July 9, this year.
The 18 players who are already in camp are three goalkeepers; Richard Kingston, George Owu, Philemon MaCcarthy.
The defenders are Aziz Ansah, Dan Quaye, Issah Ahmed, Shilla Illiasu Alhassan, Habib Mohammed, Eric Addo The midfielders are Otto Addo, Haminu Dramani, Bernard Don Bortey, Yusif Alhassan Chibsah and Nana Kwasi Asare, a new player on board who plies his trade in Belgium.
The rest who are all strikers are Isaac Boakye, Patrick Agyemang, Lloyd Owusu and Matthew Amoah, who had to report to camp in the company of his team doctor because of an injury he sustained in one of their recent matches.
Some other regular players who were not invited by the coach because of club commitment, and may have passed the test include the skipper, Stephen Appiah, Sammy Osei Kuffuor, Michael Essien, Sulley Ali Muntari, Addoquaye Pappoe, John Paintsil, Hans Adu Sarpei, Baba Armando Adamu, Asamoah Gyan, Baffour Gyan, Laryea Kingston and goalkeeper Sammy Adjei.