Black Stars look to shine - Ghana World Cup Preview
The Black Stars will be looking to put last World Cups exit behind them and focus on bettering it this year in Brazil. After the infamous Luis Suarez handball and the eventual penalty miss from their talisman Asamoah Gyan, they will be hoping for a less heartbreaking tournament this time round.
Ghana started off their World Cup qualifying campaign with a convincing 7-0 win over Lesotho 2 years ago, which is their biggest win in World Cup qualifying history. Even with a somewhat easy group and despite scoring 16 goals in their first 5 matches, they still required a point in the final group game against Zambia to reach the play-off and they did so by getting the full 3 points in a 2-1 win. In the play-offs they came up against the 7 time ACON champions Egypt and they made it look extremely easy by demolishing them 7-3 on aggregate in an emphatic display which sent them on their way to Brazil.
Kwesi Appiah has chosen a very young side that actually ranks as the youngest group of 23 in the tournament, with an average age of 24.9. This doesn’t mean they are inexperienced though, with 7 of them being in the squad 4 years ago and 8 players having 40 or more international caps.
Goalkeepers: Fatau Dauda (Orlando Pirates), Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset), Stephen Adams (Aduana Stars)
Defenders: Samuel Inkoom (Platanias), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege/Porto), Harrison Afful (Esperance), John Boye (Rennes), Jonathan Mensah (Evian), Rashid Sumalia (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Midfielders: Michael Essien (AC Milan), Sulley Muntari (AC Milan), Rabiu Mohammed (Kuban Krasnodar), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese), Afriyie Acquah (Parma), Christian Atsu (Vitesse), Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough), Andre Ayew (Marseille), Mubarak Wakaso (Rubin Kazan), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Schalke 04)
Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain), Abdul Majeed Waris (Valenciennes), Jordan Ayew (Sochaux)
Similar to Boateng, Gyan announced he was going to take an indefinite break from international football after missing a penalty in the semi final of the 2012 African Cup of Nations. However a few months later he announced his return to the squad and was given the captains armband Gyan is somewhat a forgotten man these days after securing a permanent deal to Al Ain at the end of a successful loan spell from Sunderland a few seasons ago. He has still been a prolific goalscorer for club and country since though, albeit playing in a league that isn’t regarded as competitive as most. Gyan’s role up front of course is key to Ghana’s chances of getting through the group stage. He uses pace and brute strength to run down the channels, whilst also working well as a target man linking up play.
A year ago no one would have expected Boateng to be in the squad after his retirement from international football after the last world cup. Even though he’s only played short of 90 minutes international football since coming back from his retirement, Boateng is sure to be a key player in Brazil as he puts everything into his performances for The Black Stars. And because they have a difficult task progressing from the group they will need all their big stars as well as Boateng to be on song if they want to have any chance of getting through to the knockout stages
Named Ghana’s best player for the past two years running, Asamoah has really taken his game to the next level since arriving at Juventus in the summer of 2012. A proven playmaker but also a player that gives his all for his country, Asamoah will be key to creating opportunities for his teammates. Asamoah could turn out to be a very useful player for Appiah if he decides he wants put a more proven left back in there because he plays in a system with a back 3 at Juventus so he is used to tracking back and getting his tackles in.
Possible Starting XI
Kwesi Appiah will have a bit of a selection headache when picking the 3 players that play in behind Gyan, as they have an abundance of talent for different situations in this department with Asamoah, Boateng and Atsu to name a few. Appiah certainly wishes he had this problem with his back 4 though, the question of who starts at centre back is still up for discussion with Boye, Mensah and Sumaila fighting for the three slots. The midfield partnership of Essien and Muntari has been disbanded recently, with Mohammed Rabiu taking a defensive midfield slot to add the energy and pace that was missing in this pairing. Ghana’s biggest problem is at full-back, Afful who plays left back for the side is naturally a right back who finds himself playing in midfield at club level. The other options, Inkoom and Opare, who both possess plenty of pace are nothing if not inconsistent.
Ghana find themselves in a very difficult group this time around, with Germany and Portugal the favourites the qualify for the knockout stages. However, I do think Ghana can upset the apple cart a little with their youthful but also experienced side, because they are an extremely passionate and industrious side. The big decider is the final group game against Portugal and if they can go into that needing a result to qualify then I think they have every chance of doing so. If they manage to make it out of the groups they leave themselves a good chance of getting through to the quarter finals as they would come up against a team from Group H. All in all, I think Germany and Portugal will have too much for Ghana and I believe they will go out in the group stages, not without a fight though.
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