Michael Essien’s world cup has been nothing short of anonymous. The Milan star is undoubtedly one of Ghana’s best known faces at the world cup but he has kept to himself. No interviews with the press and a few minutes on the pitch is all that he has been able to achieve.
That however could change by the end of Thursday’s group G clincher against Portugal. Sulley Muntari’s suspension opens up a unique opportunity for the team’s former midfield dynamo to show he still has one last great performance left in him.
In the build up games of the team against Holland he looked almost disinterested but there is no more interesting game than the clash with the Portuguese. There is no certainty that he will start the game ahead of his younger,fitter and exuberant team mates like Agyeman Badu,protege Afriyie Acquah or Mubarak Wakaso but nobody also fits the bill more for such a clash.
Essien understands the stakes,the moment and has the experience to compete with a Portuguese midfield that honestly would shudder at the thought of a confrontation with an Essien in his prime.
A senior FA official told me “All he needs is somebody to psyche him up for this game. This is the game where we need all his experience”.
Fair sentiment I think. His knees have slowed him down but his immense intelligence on the ball an innate sense of positioning still remains. His best asset though is his ability to calm down play. The Black Stars have conceded goals in both games and have times looked naive in possession,a fact assistant coach Konadu admitted to.
“It is true we have conceded goals and that might be because we have a lot of young players who sometimes over enthusiastic.”
Essien showed this in the World cup qualifier against Zambia at the Kumasi Sports Stadium in October. His entry in the second half calmed a very nervy team that was on the brink and helped guide them over the finish line for the win that gave Ghana it’s play off spot.
When his career ends Essien will undoubtedly go down as one of Ghana’s greatest players. His World Cups though have not been the greatest. No matter the role he plays and how small it is,Portugal is Essien’s chance to shine again.