Opinion:Brazil 2014- How far can the Black Stars go?

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Aside from Ghana being drawn in our toughest World Cup group yet, we also go into this World Cup with the weakest squad so far. Not that we could have any better players than the ones named by coach Kwesi Appiah, this is fairly the best available at the moment. However, I think our squad strength does not compare to that of 2006 and 2010. Our 2014 World Cup squad has a lot of players who are out of form and pace, and are either carrying injuries or are injury-prone. Our midfield trio of Essien, Muntari and Appiah was about the best on the continent in 2006. Michael Essien was at the heart of the Chelsea midfield and team in England. He had even been voted Chelsea players’ and fans’ Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008 and went into the World Cup as a premiership winner. The same cannot be said about Michael Essien today as he has been more or less a bit-part player for AC Milan this season after been consistently overlooked on the bench by his ‘father’ at Chelsea. Muntari, who entered the 2010 World Cup as a Champions League winner is suffering the same fate as Essien at club level under new manager Clarence Seedorf.

Kevin-Prince Boateng, who was a regular for Portsmouth before the World Cup in 2010, has had reduced game time at Schalke 04 due to injuries. The country’s number one goalkeeper, Fatau Dauda has been playing second fiddle to Senzo Meyiwa (who himself is the third choice for South Africa) all season at Orlando Pirates. The role our goalkeeper, Richard Kingson, played in our feats at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups cannot be overstated, neither can the importance of playing time of a player (especially a goalkeeper). In defense, the most experienced defender in the squad, John Boye, is just returning from injury. Our first choice right-back, Samuel Inkoom was consistently overlooked and benched by Juande Ramos at Dnipro FC until he made the switch to Platanias FC during the winter transfer window. In attack, our leading striker Asamoah Gyan and Ghana’s all-time top scorer is playing ‘retirement football’ in the UAE Pro League, compared to when he was playing competitive football in France for Rennes in 2010. The Andre Dede Ayew of 2010 is not the same one we see today. The only player in the squad, who has shown form and consistency is Kwadwo Asamoah of Juventus, but he does not appear to me as a player who has the mental toughness to take a game by the scruff of its neck. He is yet to replicate his club form for country. I wish Dede Ayew had the form of Kwadwo Asamoah.

Ghana goes into the 2014 World Cup being drawn in its toughest group ever, with a comparatively weaker side and weak coach. And by weak, I do not mean tactically. Kwesi Appiah has proven time and again that he is not a man of his own and does not command the authority that the magnitude of his job demands. In terms of tactical competence or even pedigree, I do not think his predecessors, Ratomir Dujkovic and Milovan Rajevac are any better. Before those two took over the Black Stars job, they were relatively unknown in football circles and have vanished into oblivion after they left Ghana. But it takes more than tactical competence to coach a national team. One needs to be bold, resolute and responsible in decision making. It seems to me Kwesi Appiah is the opposite of all these.

In June 2013, faraway in Maseru – Lesotho, Sulley Muntari reacted angrily to being substituted in a World Cup qualifying match and walked off the pitch into the dressing room. As if that was not enough, he confronted the manager in the dressing room and even at dinner to explain to him why he was substituted. When the coach told him it was for ‘tactical reasons’, he asked ‘what tactical reasons?’. Did Muntari ever have the courage to ask Jose Mourinho why he used to put him on the bench? Has he ever asked Seedorf why he keeps him on the bench at Milan? Did he have the effrontery to ask Milovan why he consistently played a young Dede Ayew ahead of him in the 2010 World Cup? If Kwesi Appiah had any balls, he would have done what Didier Deschamps has done with Samir Nasri. The call up of players like Essien, Kevin-Prince and Jordan Ayew into the World Cup squad is yet another evidence of Appiah’s weakness as a coach. Essien is past his prime, out of form and pace.

The exclusion of Landon Donovan, Kaka, Ronaldinho and Robinho from the squads of their various countries is testament to the fact that at this stage, emotions and sentiments have no place. The inclusion of Essien in this World Cup squad is more sentimental than professional. Kevin-Prince Boateng retired from the national team in November 2011 saying that the physical demands of playing for both club and country at high levels were taking a toll on his health and he wanted to concentrate on his club career. Has that changed?? Why take a player who has shown through deeds and words that he is more committed to club than country to the World Cup? In any case, hasn’t he had more injuries after his retirement than when he used to play for the Black Stars? What’s so special about him now? Is he Ghana’s best player in Europe now? Does he not have the same record as Haminu Dramani at the World Cup (both have scored one goal)? After the President of the country had to personally appeal to him to come out of retirement, I think it would be difficult for a coach to leave Jordan Ayew out of the World Cup squad. Otherwise, I do not see why he should be on the plane to Brazil based on merit. But I think people should have principles, live and die for them. Fabio Capello resigned from the lucrative England job because of how the FA handled the John Terry captaincy saga. Kwesi Appiah could have taken a cue.

With a weak squad and coach, coupled with being drawn in our toughest World Cup group yet, I will need the faith of a mustard seed and even more to expect Ghana to go beyond the group stages in Brazil. I’m a patriot, but also a realist.

#ThoughtsOfThePhilosopher

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