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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 May 2006, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
World Cup debutants
AngolaGhanaTogoSerbia & MontenegroTrinidad & TobagoUkraineIvory CoastCzech Republic

By Jonathan Stevenson and Saj Chowdhury

At this summer's World Cup finals in Germany, eight countries will be making their debut at football's showpiece event.

The Czech Republic are at their first World Cup since Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993 and Serbia and Montenegro are at their first tournament since the former Yugoslavia ceased to exist.

But Trinidad & Tobago, Togo, Angola, Ivory Coast, Ukraine and Ghana are all making their maiden appearance at the World Cup finals.

BBC Sport asked local journalists what it means to be involved and what their expectations are come Germany in June.

ANGOLA

Jose Cunha, broadcaster for LAC Radio in Angola

What does it mean to be in the World Cup?
This is a country ravaged by a long, internal war and there are many developmental priorities more important than football. But it means so much to Angolans, it gives them the hope and confidence that they can succeed in other areas, if they work hard.

What is the mood like in the country?
Angola as a whole is very excited about the national team's participation. There are lots of programmes on radio and television about the World Cup and it is a major talking point in everyday life.

Can Angola be successful?
People here are very realistic. Firstly, we know Angola will never win the World Cup and secondly, the team is not expected to reach the knockout stage. What we are expecting is for the team to fight hard and give it their all - if we lose, lose with dignity.

What has made the difference this time around?
Coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves is a studious man and has a knack for observing his opponents in detail. He has brought a collective organisation and a strong defence which were lacking before.

Prediction?
Angola are the weakest and least experienced team in the group. We will lose to Portugal and Mexico but against Iran, we should draw and maybe we might even win.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

Ziad Mohammed, journalist for the Trinidad and Tobago Express

What does it mean to be in the World Cup?
It's a realisation that a dream has come to fruition. We've gone through 41 years of World Cup qualifying, coming close to making the 1974 and 1990 finals.

What is the mood like in the islands?
Football is very popular, particularly in Trinidad. People have this idea that cricket is bigger, and when the West Indies play on the island, that is true. But now that the World Cup is on the horizon, all eyes are on that.

Can Trinidad & Tobago be successful?
It will very difficult to get out of our group, because we've got England, Sweden and Paraguay. Although, the fact we have qualified makes this already a very successful campaign.

What has made the difference this time around?
The difference was the appointment of Leo Beenhakker. He was brought in when the team found themselves bottom of the table after just two games. Beenhakker brought belief into the team - players started to play for him.

Prediction?
If Trinidad and Tobago play as well as they did in the latter stages of qualification then we can make the second round. I think we'll beat Paraguay and Sweden and maybe grab a draw against England.

GHANA

Ackah Anthony, journalist for the Ghana Graphic newspaper

What does it mean to be in the World Cup?
We have a great record in the African Cup of Nations (four-times champions), but for some reason have not made the World Cup finals. So you can imagine, reaching Germany brought a mixture of delight and relief.

What is the mood like in the country?
Total euphoria after we qualified. But we were down in the dumps having just won one game at this year's Cup of Nations. It seems though that people have picked themselves up again.

Can Ghana be successful?
We did have a team of individual stars before coach Ratomir Djukovic came in and was willing to drop those not performing well - whoever they were. Although Djukovic's disciplined approach did not work well at the Cup of Nations, he had spelt out that the World Cup was his priority. I think we'll be OK against Italy and the Americans, but I'm not sure about the Czechs.

What has made the difference this time around?
The government has supported the team financially because they are taking their efforts more seriously these days. The players have responded professionally. As I mentioned above, they also have a good coach on board.

Prediction?
They might make the second round, but I think that will depend on how they do against the Czechs.

UKRAINE

John Marone, journalist at the Kiev Post

What does it mean to be in the World Cup?
Well, we've made it for the first time, so it's a pretty big achievement. The stadiums are usually packed here anyway, so we love our football. I suppose it's a surprise Ukraine have not made it to the World Cup earlier, but then again the country's only been independent since 1991.

What is the mood like in the country?
There is not really a culture of watching football in bars over in Ukraine, but now some of my colleagues have started to do that - World Cup fever is definitely building up. We have a lot of football programmes on TV, but understandably, most of the talk is about Germany 2006.

Can Ukraine be successful?
There is a serious hope that the country will perform well. There is a tendency to believe the team can defy the odds. Of course, if it all goes wrong, then the fans won't hesitate to blame the coach, the people who appointed him, the players etc.

What has made the difference this time around?
We're still developing and establishing ourselves as a nation - but as far as the national team is concerned, we're pretty much there. A lot has got to do with the fact that most players in our team play for the big clubs in Ukraine, like Shakhtar Donetsk or Dynamo Kiev, or ply their trade abroad - like Andriy Shevchenko at AC Milan.

Prediction?
I'm just hoping for the best.

TOGO

Eric Kaglan, journalist with Radio Nostalgie

What does it mean to be in the World Cup?
It is a great joy for the country to be in the World Cup and it is a big moment when it comes around.

What is the mood like in the country?
At the moment in Togo, the thinking is more political than sport. There are too many other things to concentrate on, but as it gets closer I'm sure that will change.

Can Togo be successful?
It is a massive achievement to be there for the first time and the most important thing is to produce some good performances, that is the principal aim.

What has made the difference this time around?
The coach had a big say, but the star players like Emmanuel Sheyi Adebayor were very important in the qualifying matches. They gave us a quality we did not have before.

Prediction?
Very hard to say. South Korea, France and Switzerland are all very powerful and all we can wish for is to put in good performances and not get beaten 8-0 like Saudi Arabia last time!

IVORY COAST

James Copnall, BBC correspondent, Ivory Coast

What does it mean to be in the World Cup?
This is the first time Ivory Coast has made it to the World Cup finals, which already makes it important. The country is also split by civil war, and desperate for good news, making it almost impossible to overplay how much it means to Ivorians to see their team in Germany.

What is the mood like in the country?
Anticipation is huge. Newspapers run reams of articles about the team and its chances, people discuss the Elephants over a large local beer, nicknamed the "Drogba". Adverts seem to be exclusively about football, travel agents are selling expensive all-inclusive World Cup packages, the queue outside the Germany Embassy is large, and everyone is waiting for 10 June.

Can Ivory Coast be successful?
Yes. Their group is the hardest, but as Ivorians point out, their team is probably stronger than Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. Coach Henri Michel has already set the objective of "getting out of the group - and after that we can dream". Most Ivorians would agree.

What has made the difference this time around?
Ivory Coast have many talented players, some of whom learnt their football at Jean-Marc Guillou's Academy in Abidjan. Those players have matured, and the likes of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, Didier Zokora and Yaya Toure would grace any World Cup squad. The experience and goals of Didier Drogba have also proved important.

Prediction?
They will acquit themselves very honorably, but fail to make it out of the "Group of Death". If they do go through though, they will cause a lot of trouble.

SERBIA & MONTENEGRO

Zoran Panjkovic, journalist for B92 FM radio

What does it mean to be in the World Cup?
It is great for this country to be part of this tournament. It is six years since we were in Euro 2000 and that is too long. We had a great qualifying campaign and are ready.

What is the mood like in the country?
There is a great atmosphere in the country, everyone is getting hugely excited about the World Cup. Even on the streets, this is what people are talking about and so many people want to go to Germany to see it.

Can Serbia & Montenegro be successful?
I think Nemanja Vidic's suspension for the first game is a real blow. Holland is a tough game but we have a better chance against Argentina and Ivory Coast is a complete unknown.

Prediction?
This is very difficult. I think if they can squeeze through the group, the quarter-finals is the limit of this generation.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Frantisek Bouc, journalist for The Prague Post

What does it mean to be in the World Cup?
It is the first time we have made it to the finals for 16 years, so the whole nation is delighted. Strangely, some of the press were already working out how far we would go in Germany before we had even played Norway in the play-offs.

What is the mood like in the country?
There are mixed feelings at the moment because striker Jan Koller may not be at full fitness and midfielder Vladimir Smicer is out. We're all excited, but I suppose a little pessimistic regarding our chances.

Can Czech Republic be successful?
I'm hoping we can make it out of the group, although we've got the USA, Ghana and Italy to contend with - so, it might be quite tough for us. Then there's the chance of meeting Brazil in the second round, which certainly won't be ideal.

How different does it feel this time to when you qualified as Czechoslovakia in 1990?
In 1990 it was special, because we qualified as Czechoslovakia just before the revolution. The team went into Italia '90 with a lot of pride and optimism following all the events that were going on back home. This time round the qualification is solely identified with sport, not politics.

Prediction?
We'll qualify from the group but get knocked out in the second round.



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