After qualifying for their first World Cup in 2006, the Black Stars are back hoping to do better than their positive performance four years ago in Germany. It was then when in a difficult group including Italy, the Czech Republic, and the United States that Ghana advanced to the second round but ultimately lost to Brazil 3-0. This time another they are in Group D, another tough draw that has seen them land Germany, Australia, and Serbia. A place in the knockout round would be considered a success, however there is a feeling that this team can go far if all the pieces fall into place.
TALE OF THE TAPE
FIFA Ranking: 32nd
World Cup Appearances: 1 (2006)
World Cup Record (W-D-L): 2-0-2
Best World Cup Finish: 2006, Round of 16
Road To South Africa: Finished 1st in Africa’ Group D
Out of all the teams in the tournament, this squad is right up there with having the best mix of youth and experience. Young talent abounds and those players showed in the African Nations’ Cup in January that they are ready to take on the world’s best. This is a team that won’t be prone to the errors in defense of the past where cheap goals were conceded. There is now a defensive solidity in place that will serve the team well in South Africa. Good, solid role players coupled with a sprinkling of world-class stars means that this is a team that has some serious quality.
Goalscoring is still a problem for this side as score generally stay low when Ghana are involved. This is a team that has suffered injuries to many key players this season and it remains to be seen who can recover fully and help at the World Cup. There is also a fear that this one World Cup too soon, for a talented, but extremely young side that features 10 players under 21 on the 31-team preliminary roster.
Milovan Rajevac was a much-maligned selection as Ghana national boss back in 2008, however the Serbian’s record since his appointment has swayed public opinion and he is now a popular figure amongst Ghananian supporters. Previously, Rajevac had done all his coaching in Serbia with domestic clubs, so it was certainly a surprise move to coach Ghana. Led the team to the final of the African Nations’ Cup in January, losing to Egypt but surprising many along the way as Ghana had many injury problems. A strict coach who has gained respect as a smart tactician, Rajevac has been criticized in some quarters for favoring results above style, however to most he has made Ghana a team extremely tough to beat.
The Key Men
Surely much of Ghana’s success in South Africa will rest upon the shoulders of Michael Essien. Injured for much of the season, the all-action Chelsea midfielder is in a race against time for fitness ahead of the team’s opener versus Serbia on June 13th. The heart of the Ghanaian side, Essien’s ability to create a seamless transition from defense to attack will be highly coveted in South Africa. It remains to be seen whether he can become fully fit in the lead-up.
Sulley Muntari will have to play an even bigger role if his usual midfield partner Essien is unable to play at the World Cup. Together they form one of the best midfield tandems in the world. Muntari has experienced an up-and-down season for Inter Milan and recently has had some run-ins with Ghana boss Rajevac. If he’s one his game, this is an accomplished midfield battler who is not only a ball-winner, but someone capable of scoring important goals as evidenced by his 15 tallies for Ghana in 52 appearances.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding this side, focusing on the young talent. With many players from the U-20 World winning side having been drafted into the team, it remains to be seen whether these extremely talented youngsters can do the job on the grandest stage. Perhaps the biggest x-factor this time around is the emergence of a proven goalscorer. Asamoah Gyan has become a regular for Rennes in Ligue 1 and providing the goals for them while also showing he a threat at the international level (19 goals in 38 caps for Ghana).
The Key Match
There are no easy games in Group D and though Ghana’s first two matches against Serbia and Australia will set the tone as far as their hopes for advancing past the first round, everything in this tight group might be decided on the final day of matches. Thus, the team’s final fixture against Germany may become the important match as hypothetically they may need a point or more in order to advance to the Round of 16.
Why You Should Watch Them
Rajevac may have suppressed style for substance, but this is still a team that has enough skill to warrant watching. Take into account as well that they will be one of the best supported teams at the tournament and that if they can make it out of Group D they have enough experience, talent, and ability to go far and you have a darkhorse worth following.
Guest Panelist: Shamek Stepien, director of AfryKamera Film Festival, African football fanatic, raised in Zambia.
Shamek told One Game, One World:
“Ghana are arguably the best team from Africa and will be flying high into the World Cup after coming second in the Africa Cup of Nations with a second-tier side and winning the World Youth Cup. Unlike their big rivals – Nigeria – the Black Stars are generally held as a team with a very good tactical sense. Ghana has invested into youth football since the times of Kwame Nkrumah and this led to the youth development system being one of the best on the continent. Add to this a very sensible FA and fans can be assured that their tournament won’t be derailed by behind-the-door issues and infighting about pay.
With just over a month before the start of the World Cup big questions remain as to the Black Star’s injuries. Given that we have yet to find out who exactly will be able to make the cut ranking Ghana’s chances is a tough job. Unfortunately even if Essien makes the World Cup it is unlikely he will be top-of-his-game and his form may be key to the Africans chances in this extremely tough group. Due to this I wouldn’t be overly optimistic as to Ghana’s chances to advance and unless the Ghana youth step up to the task they will most likely miss out on a 1/8 final spot.”
One Game, One World Final Say
A pragmatic approach mixed with loads of talent, Ghana’s potential at this World Cup is vast. If the team were in an easier group then talk would not only concern advancing to the next stage, but really be on how far this could go. For now, getting out of Group D has to be the main objective because overlooking that target could be disastrous. If they can claim one of the group’s top two spots then there is no telling how far this side could go. An able defense, strong midfield, and improved attack means that this team could really surprise in South Africa.
What do you think? Will Ghana go far or fall at the first hurdle in a tough Group D? Have your say by sending us a comment!