RATOMIR DUJKOVIC thinks it is a very difficult group for Ghana, “This is going to be big pressure on my players.” Some commentators have even labelled Group E of Germany 2006, which pitches Ghana against Italy, the Czech Republic and the United States of America, as the 'group of death.'
Even then he adds defiantly: “We will fight until the last minute to try to get past their first stage and if we manage that, it will be like becoming World Cup winners.”
Ghana will kick off her maiden appearance in the World Cup on Monday, June 12 against Italy in Hanover. The Black Stars will next face the Czechs in Cologne on Saturday June 17. Their last group encounter is with the USA on Thursday, June 22 in Nuremberg.
Also, speaking to The Statesman at Leipzig after the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals draw, Deputy Minister of Education & Sports, O B Amoah thought there was “nothing unexpected about the draw: Being the first time we were bound to be paired against two European teams. Besides, there are no easy games at the World Cup stage.”
He added, “I think it is not a bad draw, really. The Czechs are, going by their current form, the favourite in the Group. Italy, I believe, are manageable. We shouldn't see it as bad for Ghana. What we need to do is to tackle every match with maximum seriousness and professionalism. If we want to go far we need to play as a worthy team, representing Africa.”
The Deputy Minister, who led the Ghanaian delegation to Germany for the draw, sees Group C, which pits Côte d'Ivoire against Argentina and the Netherlands, with Serbia Montenegro thrown in as the apparent whipping boys, as a far tougher group for Africa's hopes of advancing to the semi finals of the World Cup for the first time.
Speaking to the media Friday night after the draw, Italy national soccer coach Marcello Lippi admitted that his side have a tricky World Cup group, which includes two teams above them in the FIFA rankings. The Czechs are ranked number two, with the USA at eight and Italy, 12.
Acting GFA Chairman Kwasi Nyantekyi, commenting on Ghana's grouping, expressed optimism about Ghana's performance at the World Cup. He explained that Ghana's experience in playing Italy from the juvenile to the Olympic level will take away any intimidation the team might otherwise have felt. Mr Nyantekyi identified the Czech Republic as the most dangerous team in Ghana's group, but promised that Ghana will prepare feverishly for Germany 2006 in order to make a successful impact.
He added that the Ghana team will be camped at least two weeks ahead of the World Cup in a five-star facility in Germany which has excellent training facilities, in order to adequately prepare the team for its matches.
All the newcomers, such as Ghana, Togo, Cote d'Ivoire, and Trinidad & Tobago, expressed excitement at their participation in the upcoming championships, but acknowledged the need to work hard to make an impression in the competition. For the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup participating teams will be rotated with regard to venue even in the preliminary round of the competition. Next year's competition will also see an innovation in the design of the balls to be used for the games.
The Chief Executive Officer of Bahmed Travel and Tours, Alhaji Bandoh who sponsored three Ghanaian journalists to go to the draw, was also present to assess facilities available and make preparations to comfortably host Ghanaian supporters who will be cheering the team in Germany next year.
The draw, which attracted participants from all 32 participating countries, was a hugely successful event executed with precision and panache. The former communist city of Leipzig, still under reconstruction, hosted famous and celebrated names in soccer. This final draw appears to be a fitting foretaste of an anticipated memorable 2006 FIFA world cup in Germany, appropriately tagged a time to make friends.