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Ghana aim to tame the stars

Despite Brazil being favoured to advance Ghana's superb play will pressurize the champions.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2006 19:29 IST

Underwhelming many, criticised for not meeting expectations, Brazil are still confident of reaching the World Cup quarterfinals. Although the five-time champions are showing a lot of respect to Ghana for their second-round match on Tuesday, even calling it the "biggest surprise of the World Cup", there's no denying they are heavily favoured to advance.

"If Brazil plays what it knows, it shouldn't have any problems getting past them," defender Roberto Carlos said. "How many world titles has Ghana won? None. How many has Brazil won? It makes a difference."

Brazil are boosted by a convincing 4-1 win over Japan last Thursday, in which they improved considerably from lacklustre victories against Croatia and Australia. "Brazil is prepared to face anybody. There's no reason to fear any opponent," said Ronaldo, who scored twice against Japan and apparently regained his form after shaky performances in the first two matches.

The Brazilians know, however, they shouldn't expect an easy time against Ghana. Playing their first World Cup, the Africans finished second to two time champions Italy in the tough Group E, which also included the United States and the Czech Republic.

The Black Stars fell 2-0 to the Italians, beat the Czechs by the same score and defeated the United States 2-1. "It's a team that needs to be respected. It played three good games in a very difficult group," Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said. "It eliminated the Czech Republic, who were was one of the favourites to advance to the next round."

Parreira, whose first coaching job was with Ghana in 1967, was the one who called the African team the "biggest surprise" of the tournament. He said the greatest advantage for Ghana is that they don't have as much responsibility as the defending champions.

"Ghana doesn't have anything to lose. They are straight shooters," Parreira said. "All the pressure is on the Brazilian team."

While Brazil are seeking a record sixth title, Ghana are trying to become only the third African team to reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Senegal did it in 1998 in France and Cameroon made it in 1990 in Italy. No team has reached the last four.

Besides Senegal and Cameroon, Morocco and Nigeria are the only other African teams to reach the second round. "African soccer has improved a lot recently, with several players in top clubs around the world," Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos said.

Ghana coach Ratomir Du jkovic was not ruling out an upset. "The Black Stars are not afraid of anybody, including Brazil," he said. "We have excellent players ... (Brazil) will have to suffer to win this match."

The Brazilians were bracing for a physical match on Tuesday. Ghana committed 76 fouls in its three first-round matches, the most by any of the 32 teams. Brazil committed 35, the fewest. In addition, Ghana players received 12 yellow cards, second only to Tunisia. "I hope the referees are able to curb this, especially to protect soccer played with quality," Parreira said. Brazil struggled when they faced Croatia and Australia, which play similar to Ghana.

Parreira said he would not announce his starting line-up until just before the match, as he did prior to Brazil's game against Japan. It still wasn't clear whether Robinho would be available after injuring his right thigh in Brazil's training session on Saturday. The striker was to undergo tests on Monday to find out the extent of his injury.

Ghana will get Muntari and striker Asamoah Gyan back from suspension, but playmaker Michael Essien will be out after picking up a pair of yellow cards. Brazil beat Ghana 8-2 the only time the teams have met -- a 1996 friendly in Brazil. "We'll play our game on Tuesday and see what happens," Ghana captain Stephen Appiah said.