Sports News of Friday, 1 December 2017
All things go in cycles and football teams are no exception. Even the most successful clubs go through transition periods where one generation of players are gradually replaced with a new wave of talent. Of course, there is never any guarantee that the same level of success can be carried through each era but it is the job of team coaches and selectors to try and achieve a degree of continuity.
For club coaches, this task is much easier. Players can be recruited on a regular basis from virtually anywhere in the world and there are teams of scouts working tirelessly to identify players that are compatible with their club’s requirements. But even then, it can be hard to maintain that standard year in, year out.
For national teams such as Ghana, who have reached previously unchartered heights in recent years, such transition periods can be tough. The club’s failure to reach the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia brings to an end an era in which they qualified for three straight editions of FIFA’s showpiece event, the highlight being a quarter-final appearance in 2010.
But for Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah, the controversial 0-0 defeat against Uganda that ultimately sealed their fate marked the beginning of a new era. An era that began with a 3-0 friendly win over Saudi Arabia in Jeddah in October.
The Black Stars started their last two matches without several key players including Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Jonathan Mensah and Christian Atsu. While those players have formed an integral part of the squad over the last few years, there is a feeling that the time has come to start looking forward and give the next generation a chance.
Building a new international side is no easy task but there is enough talent out there to suggest that Ghana can rise again quickly. All signs suggest that Atletico Madrid’s 24-year-old midfielder Thomas Partey will be the driving force in this new era with Leicester City’s ever-improving Daniel Amartey and Stuttgart’s Ebenezer providing able assistance in the midfield.
The game in Saudi Arabia featured a strike and an assist from Partey, while Fredrikstad defender Razak Nuhu bagged his first goal at national level. Nicholas Opoku of Club Africaine and Kasim Nuhu of Young Boys both impressed, as did Joseph Attamah, who currently plies his trade in Turkey. And there are plenty more youngsters waiting in the wings.
Appiah’s men will resume their Africa Cup of Nations Qualification campaign in March having already opened their account with a 5-0 win over Ethiopia. Keen punters might want to keep an eye on the football odds as they could quickly reduce under the new coach’s influence.
Appiah’s second term at the helm only began in April by which time the team were already five points adrift in their qualifying group. And with Egypt in such good form, it was always going to be an uphill struggle. In some ways, those conditions made it easier for him to take some risks with his selections.
Without a World Cup to plan for, Appiah can now afford to begin building a squad for the future. Just as Ghana did back in 2004 when failure to reach the Africa Cup of Nations prompted a process that culminated in World Cup qualification just two years later.