2014 World Cup Group G team previews: Ghana
Ghana are confident they can claw their way out of a World Cup group which includes Germany, Portugal and the United States.
The Black Stars reached the round of 16 in their World Cup debut in 2006 in Germany and reached the last eight four years ago in South Africa. Now they want to become the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the tournament.
Skipper Asamoah Gyan, who appeared at both previous finals, said that Ghana will raise their game in Brazil.
“The thing about Ghana all the time is that whenever we play against a big team, we perform,” said Gyan.
“That is what happened with us when we were going to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
“And that is what happened with the Egypt (World Cup play-off) game where everyone got involved.
“And I believe it will happen again at this World Cup.”
Ghana were unstoppable when they dumped seven-times African champions Egypt 7-3 on aggregate to book their passage to Brazil 2014. It was a vintage performance by the west African side in Kumasi, where they blew away Egypt 6-1 in the first leg. Gyan scored twice.
They will be in Brazil with a more experienced squad after Michael Essien rejoined the team and they now have more viable options upfront with the emergence of Majeed Waris and Christian Atsu.
Coach Kwesi Appiah, who was an assistant coach at the South Africa finals, has won the confidence of his players, despite rumours that he would be replaced with a foreign manager.
Germany – world champions three times – are favourites to win Group G, leaving the other automatic qualifying spot wide open. Ghana open the campaign against the United States on June 16 in Natal. They have beaten the Americans on their two previous meetings at the World Cup.
In 2006, Ghana won 2-1 in a group game and four years later they eliminated the Americans again by the same scoreline in the round of 16. Their subsequent quarter-final appearance ended in heartbreak when Luis Suarez infamously handed out Dominic Adiyiah’s header at the goal-line in the closing moments. Gyan went on to miss the ensuing penalty and Uruguay advanced later on penalties 4-2.
Their second group game will be against Germany on June 21 in Fortaleza.
Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo, will be their final group opponents on June 26 in Brasilia.
“Ronaldo is the world player (of the year) and there is no doubt that he is critical to the cause of the Portuguese team but for us we are not going to be distracted because of him,” Gyan said.
“I am not bothered because we are playing Portugal because the World Cup is the biggest stage and there are no small teams. Every team who qualifies has done so on merit.
“We are playing against the best and we cannot do anything about that, we just have to get ourselves ready.”
As part of their World Cup build-up, they will tackle the Netherlands on May 31 in Rotterdam.
They will then set up a training camp in Los Angeles, where they have confirmed another warm-up game against fellow World Cup finalists Honduras.
Five to watch:
Sulley Muntari, midfielder (AC Milan); Age 29; 79 caps. One of the Black Stars’ most experienced players, Muntari scored the lone goal in Ghana’s fateful quarter-final loss on penalties to Uruguay in 2010. Brings good energy and is an underrated goal threat, having netted about once in every four matches (19 goals) for Ghana internationally. Coming off one of his strongest domestic campaigns in years for AC Milan, where he scored six goals and assisted on two more in 27 matches across all competitions, his most action in a season since 2008/09.
Michael Essien, midfielder (AC Milan); Age 31; 52 caps. Not long ago was considered an international superstar after playing the better part of a decade with Chelsea. Sold to AC Milan in January by Chelsea, he made little impact, appearing in only seven matches. Still capable of providing a strong central midfield pairing with Muntari, though, bringing experience and a fierce competitive spirit to a young side.
Asamoah Gyan, striker (Al Ain, UAE); Age 28; 77 caps. Prolific scorer who netted the extra-time winner in the last 16 against the United States in 2010 and has 39 goals to his credit internationally for the Black Stars. Joined Arabian Gulf League’s Al Ain in 2011 after stints in Serie A with Udinese, Ligue 1 with Rennes and the Premier League with Sunderland. Scored 29 times for club in the AGL this season for his third successive Golden Boot award in the UAE.
Kwadwo Asamoah, winger (Juventus); Age 25; 59 caps. The pacey wing-back has enjoyed a consistent career in Serie A, earning a place in the sarting XI first at Udinese and then securing his role with Italian champions Juventus upon arrival in 2012. Has been well-worked in 2013/2014 – in addition to his 32 Serie A matches, where he scored twice and assisted on three more goals, he’s played in 21 other matches with Juve and Ghana, giving him 53 appearances across all competitions this year.
Andre Ayew, winger (Marseille); Age 24; 47 caps. Son of Ghana legend Abedi Pele, brother Jonathan also in the squad. Adds some flair on the outside and should be a main provider for Gyan and co up front after a fine season with Marseille in which he made 24 Ligue 1 appearances, scoring six times and assisting thrice more.
Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE
Published: May 28, 2014 04:00 AM