The 2006 World Cup was a football party like no other. In a soccer-crazed host nation, that for the first time since the war allowed German national sentiment to flourish, there were plenty of entertaining players. One of the colorful features of the tournament were World Cup debutants Ghana, who played their way through a strong group consisting of the Czech Republic, the USA and the later world champions from Italy. PUNDIT looks back at the 2006 World Cup with Razak Pimpong, who featured in three of Ghana's four matches at the finals.By Razak Pimpong - narrated to Sajeev Shankar
THE UNEXPECTED WORLD CHAMPIONS
I remember that Fabio Cannavaro was voted the best player in the world that year. In a way, it was nerve-racking to be brought on to play against Italy. But once you get on the field, you don't think about it anymore. After the match, however, you stand back and can observe all the players on the pitch. Pirlo, Buffon, Del Piero, Totti. It was very special!
We could tell that Italy was a good team, but that they would go all the way to become world champions? I did not expect that. After all, we also had Brazil, Germany and all the other big teams who could go all the way. So, it was really surprising to see them lift the trophy in Berlin.
THE HISTORIC VICTORY
It was so big. I remember when we played the USA and qualified from the group. I called my family back home and they said the whole of Ghana was up and running. It was a huge party! After all, it was the first time ever that Ghana took part in the World Cup. Nobody believed in us beforehand. When we progressed from the group, it was a massive success at home. And boy, we then had to face Brazil next!
We knew that the match against Brazil would be very difficult. But we knew we just had to do our best and give it everything. It was just a game, and in football anything can happen. Just an early penalty or a lucky goal for us could change the expected outcome. But if you looked at the two teams player by player - hahaha (!).
After all, we were up against Ronaldo, Adriano, Kaka, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos. They were all superstars. Brazil at that World Cup were a special team. When we lost just 0-3, I think they were still happy in Ghana. They were just relieved we weren’t embarrassed.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE 2006 WORLD CUP FOR GHANA
I will never forget the reception we received back home in Ghana. All the streets were full. The airport was completely packed with people waiting to greet us and it just continued on all the way through Accra, where were fans were standing everywhere and hailing us.
I think our performance in the tournament must have inspired our younger players who were just developing. It gave a belief that one should not fear the opponents - they are just players.
You don't have to be afraid when you go to the World Cup. We removed that fear around the tournament. And at the World Cup in 2010, it was only Luis Suarez's hand and a missed penalty which stopped Ghana reaching a semi-final.
It was something very special to be part of the World Cup. This is what all footballers dream of! Something I will always remember!
What is the name of our captain at the 2006 World Cup, who has played for six different clubs in Serie A?