FIFA World Cup Group D focus: Ghana Football History

The history of how football became popular in Ghana and how they've faired in international tournaments.

Previously called Gold Coast when it was under British rule, Ghana was always an island of calm in the stormy seas of African politics. Its football history however, was fairly choppy, with power struggles dividing their game until the 1950s.

In the record books, football was introduced into the Gold Coast towards the close of the 19th century by merchants from the UK.

Sailors during their leisure time played football amongst themselves and sometimes with a select side of the indigenous people.

The popularity of the game spread like wild fire within a short time along the coast culminating in the formation of the first football club, Excelsior, in 1903 by Mr. Briton, a Jamaican-born UK headmaster.

The game grew a great deal domestically from then but it wasn-t until a tour of the UK in the 1940-s that the arguing football factions of the Gold Coast finally came together.

The first three recorded matches they played as Ghana were in the early 1950-s when they faced Nigeria in all three, winning two and losing one.

The first non-African side they faced was East Germany when they played them twice in the same week, with both sides recording a victory.

Further down the track, Ghana became part of the Confederation of African Football and FIFA and from here they began to become successful, winning their first African Cup of Nations in 1963.

They went on to win the tournament in 1965, 1978 and 1982 and are currently the second most successful team in African Nations football.

In the latest tournament earlier this year, they lost to Egypt in the final and they-ve also been runners up on four occasions.

Outside of Africa though, they continued a slow rise throughout the 1960s and 70s when they began to play more international opposition away from the continent.

As African players started to become more popular in the best European leagues, international sides started to play more regularly against African opposition and this helped African sides take a big step forward, especially in the 1980s and 90s.

Over the last twenty years the world had to stand up and take notice of African teams and with sides such as Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt producing stars who shone in the best leagues in the world. African footballers had become household names.

Despite this, Ghana in particular didn-t really come of age until more recently. Results on their own continent saw them touted as the Brazil of Africa by some but despite this and their achievement at the Olympic Games, Ghana has not been very successful at the FIFA World Cup.

The national team has entered the FIFA World Cup 11 times, but has qualified only once. The qualification was in 2006 when the team reached the second round in Germany. Prior to this they were named FIFA-s most improved side in 2005.

This impressive World Cup debut has seen them hovering around the mid 20s in the FIFA World Rankings system, which is a huge improvement over the last ten years.

Since the last World Cup, strong performances in the African Cup of Nations and in friendly matches have seen them become a real threat to many of the top sides in the world.

More noticeable though, is their player-s form in the best leagues in the world, especially England and Italy. Aside from the star individuals, they also work together extremely well as a unit, which makes them even more dangerous.

Australia have played Ghana six times in the past, winning four, drawing one and losing one, so the stats are in our favour at the moment.

Australia-s most recent match against Ghana in 2008 saw the Qantas Socceroos record a 1-0 victory after a Stejovski goal separated the sides.

Overall, what they lack in history, they make up for in momentum. They took a while to grow on the world stage but they must be considered as one of if not the best African side at the World Cup, especially considering Egypt-s absence.

They will be a tough, organised and physical side that will be used to the African conditions and nothing less than a true 100% Aussie performance will be good enough to topple the Black Stars.