Italy and Ghana have never met on the football pitch making Match 9 of the 2006 World Cup a historic occasion.

The Marcello Lippi coached Italians have had a steady build up to the Cup, but are not without their share of injury worries, with tenacious midfielder Gennaro Gattuso and iconic striker Francesco Totti both struggling with injury.

AC Milan player Gattuso will miss his team's opening match as he recovers from a thigh injury, with Daniele De Rossi likely to stand in, while Roma based Totti who is also in doubt as he continues to recover from a broken ankle, is set to be replaced by the equally gifted Alessandro Del Piero.

Italians are renowned world-wide for their passionate approach to everything in life, and Del Piero noted that their attitude to football and the World Cup is no different.

Alessandro Del Piero keeps his
eye on the ball

"We Italians live on emotion and tension and pressure. We will go into these games and play with heart and that gives me great confidence," the Juventus legend said.

"The Ghana match is the most difficult and the most important for us. We have to go out there, give a good show and above all win."

These are interesting comments by the experienced Azzurri striker as after Ghana, Italy are still to play 5th ranked USA and 2nd ranked Czech Republic in their remaining Group E fixtures.

The Italians have had a disrupted preparation for the tournament with a cloud of match fixing hanging over their domestic league.

Key players such as Gianluigi Buffon have been called out of camp to give evidence to the current inquiry in the dealings of Scudetto winning club Juventus.

Just how much effect these investigations have had on the side will soon be seen.

Ghana are indeed the rising stars of football and with a strong history of four African Nations Cups and two world Under-17 titles behind them, the west Africans will be eager to mark their World Cup debut with a win.

Croat coach Ratomir Dujkovic who was appointed in December 2004, has instilled a belief in his players that they can be competitive and continue to make a name for Ghanaian football at the World Cup.

Dujkovic’s team is based around an impressive midfield and a stingy defence which allowed just four goals in twelve qualifying matches, in which they were defeated only once against Burkina Faso.

Chelsea’s Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah of Fenerbache, and Udinese based Sulley Muntari are the men in the engine room for the Black Stars, while Roma defender Samuel Kuffour will keep a close eye on club-mate Totti should he play.

With fellow debutants Trinidad & Tobago and Ivory Coast having already given good accounts of themselves in their respective opening matches, the Black Stars of Ghana will be looking to shine in what is yet another enticing round one clash.