Ghana opens World Cup play Sunday against Serbia. The Black Stars are hoping to build on their second round appearance in the last World Cup in Germany.
Ghana is grouped with Germany, Serbia, and Australia in this World Cup. Germany is expected to advance. But the second team from Group D to make it through to the next round is up for grabs with oddsmakers putting Ghana and Serbia only slightly ahead of Australia.
After South Africa's automatic bid as World Cup host, Ghana was the first African nation to qualify for this year's tournament. Alhaji Ismaela Ibrahim is the general secretary of Ghana's Nationwide Supporters Union. He says all Ghanaians understand their country's place in African history and expect to write another chapter in South Africa.
"I am telling you like history will tell you: Ghana being the first African country in sub-Sahara to get independence. And I know Ghana is going to be the first country in Africa to at least reach the final stage," he said.
Along with Egypt, Ghana is the most successful team in African Nations Cup history with four titles each. The Black Stars got off to a shaky start in qualifying for this World Cup with away losses to both Gabon and Libya. But they came on strong in wins against Mali, Benin, and Sudan without allowing a single goal. Ghana finished qualifying with eight wins in 12 matches and a goal differential of 20 goals for and only 8 against.
Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac has plenty of international talent on his side. But he will be without Ghana's best offensive player, Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien who is out with a knee injury.
Maxwell Agyeman believes the Black Stars are deep enough to win without Essien.
"Ghana has a very great team with the likes of players like Stephen Appiah and the rest," he said. [I] am very, very, sure that we would win. Very, very, sure. Even though some people are much worried about the inability of Essien to be present at the World Cup, but with or without Essien I think Ghana would do very well at the World Cup."
Abdul Aziz Haruna has followed the Black Stars to many international tournaments. He says there is something special about Africa hosting its first World Cup.
"The cup belongs to Africa because the gold has been taken from Ghana and the rest of the African countries," he said. "So far as the gold has come back to our soil we have to keep it. The cup is coming to Ghana. Ghana is the first African country [to qualify for] South Africa 2010 and Ghana we make the history before the rest followed. So by all means this cup is coming to Ghana."
After Serbia Sunday in Pretoria, Ghana plays Australia June 19th in Rustenburg and Germany June 23 in Johannesburg.