(Over the next month or so, we’re going to be doing previews for all 32 teams participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Yes, all 32 teams. We’ll make you laugh, cry, get mad and perhaps question why you read us in the first place. We hope you enjoy the product nonetheless)
“What a moment for Asamoah Gyan. What pressure on those shoulders. Asamoah Gyan for Ghana…oh and he’s missed! Oh I can not believe it! And it was the last kick of the game.”
That was the BBC commentary from Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick miss in 2010 against Uruguay in the quarterfinals. It is a moment burned in every football fan’s brain. Luis Suarez’s handball denied Ghana a sure goal. Suarez was sent off, and it all came down to Gyan’s penalty kick, which hit the bar. Uruguay then went on to win the game on penalty kicks in one of the most memorable World Cup matches ever. The loss denied Ghana the chance to be the first ever African team to make the World Cup’s final four.
Ghana is back in 2014, looking to erase that awful taste in their mouth. Ghana’s group stage draw gave them absolutely no sympathy: Germany, Portugal and the USA. One of the best teams in Europe, the best player in the world, and the best team in CONCACAF. Here’s the squad that will look to avenge the ghosts of 2010.
Goalkeepers: Fatau Dauda (Orlando Pirates), Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset), Stephen Adams (Aduana Stars)
Defenders: Samuel Inkoom (Platanias), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege), 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)
Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Schalke 04), Abdul Majeed Waris (Valenciennes), Jordan Ayew (Sochaux)
Ghana’s attack is led by the aforementioned Gyan. Gyan has proven himself to be a prolific scorer playing for the Black Stars. In eight World Cup matches, he has four goals along with two assists. Additionally, he has scored nine goals in 15 African qualifying matches in 2010 and 2014. In 2014 qualifying, he was the leading scorer in Africa. Gyan doesn’t exactly face the stiffest competition playing for his club, the UAE’s Al-Ain. In the AFC Champions League, he has eight goals in seven games. The question for Ghana will be can Gyan perform against Germany and Portugal’s back lines after spending the last two years feasting on the Asian defenses that aren’t even remotely close to the quality of Europe’s best teams. Kevin-Prince Boateng is also available to Ghana. Boateng basically pulled a Brett Favre: he retired and then decided he wanted to unretire. After retiring from international football in 2011, he unretired just in time for Ghana’s playoff against Egypt. Boateng is listed as a striker in Ghana’s squad but he can play anywhere on the pitch as an attacker or midfield. His versatility will be key for Ghana. Jordan Ayew enters this World Cup with momentum: he recently scored a hat trick versus South Korea in a World Cup warm-up.
Ghana’s midfield is highlighted by Juventus’s do-it-all man, Kwadwo Asamoah. Asamoah is actually adept in both attack and defense and was a key cog in Juventus’s title this year: he started in 34 out of their 38 Serie A matches. Marseille’s Andre Ayew will be expected to perform. With Marseille this year, he got six goals and three games and would’ve had more if not for a knee injury. The AC Milan duo of Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari will be Ghana’s defensive backbone in the midfield. Essien isn’t the player he once was for Chelsea, and his performance has been in decline the past couple seasons. Muntari made 26 appearances for AC Milan and led the team in tackles per game.
Ghana is much like a lot of other teams in the tournament: their defense is the biggest question mark. One of their defenders is just plain Afful. (No I will not leave.) Jonathan Mensah made 26 appearances for Evian in Ligue 1. But Evian finished 14th in Ligue 1 and allowed 51 goals in 38 games. John Boye only made 10 appearances. Everyone else plays in a lower quality league.
Unlike other teams with a dodgy defense, Ghana doesn’t have a great keeper available to them as a safety net. Fatau Dauda plays in the ABSA Premiership, South Africa’s domestic league. He has only five caps for Ghana and he’ll have to make a huge adjustment between facing the best South Africa’s league has to offer compared to Ronaldo, Muller and even Dempsey.
Redemption for 2010 is going to be a long shot for Ghana. They are in a group of death and it looks highly unlikely for them to get out of it.