Ghana may be going into Group G, and their first game against the USA, as unfancied underdogs, but every dog has his day, and there are plenty of reasons to think the Black Stars might make it out of the group. Here are just ten of them.
1. Asamoah Gyan Is A Goal Machine.
Goals win games, and Gyan has scored more than 40 of them this season, and has been notching at a faster rate than a goal per game in the UAE (81 goals in 65 games). Few players enter the tournament in such stellar form. Additionally, he’s already demonstrated his ability to net at World Cups, and will be eager to prove he can still be prolific on the big stage, four years after his proudest moment.
2. Injustice Lingers Over Them
Last World Cup, Ghana were denied only by the cruel intervention of fate’s Luis Suarez and his goalline hand-ball. As the Uruguayan disappeared down the tunnel, Asamoah Gyan strode forward to miss a crucial penalty. To see a World Cup campaign ended in such a cruel way, especially at the quarter-final stage, will ensure a fire is lit in the hearts of Ghanaians, ensuring their determination to right the wrong this time around.
3. This Squad Is Used To Winning
Although without a tournament victory in recent times, Ghana have made a habit of progressing through the group stages at both World Cups and African Nations Cups. In both their World Cup appearances to date, the Black Stars have reached the knockout stages, while they have done the same at the previous four editions of African Cups of Nations. For so many of the squad to have negotiated so many groups can only stand them in good stead.
4. Important Squad Members Will Be Driven By History.
This World Cup will almost certainly represent a last opportunity for some of James Kwesi Appiah’s squad to leave a mark on world football. Michael Essien, for all his honours at club level, will never get the chance to play in another World Cup, and he, along with Sulley Muntari, is well able to stamp his authority onto games. His age may count against him across a season, but over a fortnight, the aging Black Stars should be able to raise their game.
5. They Do Not Play In Manaus
The Amazon city, with its now-famous humidity and heat, will host Portugal’s clash with the USA. While both will undoubtedly be able to cope with the conditions, the travel that is necessary to get there means both those sides will cover a lot more ground than the two who meet in Fortaleza earlier that day. In total, there is only around 3300 miles between Ghana’s venues and their hotel and training base, which is second only to Germany’s 3100. On the other hand, Portugal will rack up 6000, with the USA covering a huge 9000. The trip to Manaus means a lot of travelling and a far longer flight. Not ideal.
6. Witch Doctors Are On Their Side.
Every World Cup brings about its stories of African voodoo and this is no different, though it seems to have limited effect – Ghana’s quarter-final is equally far as an African nation has progressed. This year it is the Black Stars’ turn to benefit as ‘the most influential witch doctor in Ghana’, Nana Kwaku Bonsam, claims to have enacted a curse upon Cristiano Ronaldo to ensure the Portuguese remains injured. It seems more likely Ronaldo would succumb to a recurrence of an injury after trying to rush back, but the fact he has been injured at all gives hope that he might not be at 100% for Portugal, which would undoubtedly help their opponents.
7. Pace Off The Bench
One thing that is sure to hurt tiring opposition defences is an injection of pace from a substitute. In fact, it would be handy to have two. If they could both be related to one of the greatest footballers your country has produced, all the better. Happily, that’s the position Ghana find themselves in. With Jordan and Andre Ayew, neither first choice selections should everyone be fit, the two sons of Abedi Pele, available for selection, Kwesi Appiah has a twin-fire attacking pairing that can do considerable damage to any defence should the mood take them.
8. Goals, Goals, Goals.
Although a little more reticent away from home, The Black Stars’ qualification was ensured after hitting the heights of scoring. A 7-0 home win against Lesotho started the campaign, while a 6-1 victory against Egypt in the first leg of the playoff effectively ended it. Matches in the middle ensured that Kwesi Appiah’s side scored 25 goals in their 8 qualifying games. While World Cup matches promise to be tougher, it is a squad that is used to scoring – indeed only one game saw them fail to score.
9. The USA Are Their Good Luck Charm.
This is Ghana’s third World Cup, and their first game in it will be the third meeting in finals against the USA. In both the previous games, the Black Stars have emerged victorious by a score of 2-1, and each time, Ghana have eliminated the Yanks as a result. Jurgen Klinsmann has referred to the Natal game as a ‘final’ as a result of the other two teams in the group’s quality, but seeing that his USA side traditionally come up short in the face of Ghana, when it matters most, he might regret building it up so much.
10. Their Counter-Attacking Style Should Suit Them
In beating the USA twice, American coach Bob Bradley noted that Ghana are an explosive team on the break. As the Americans will look to play a more patient game, and the Portuguese and Germans will probably dominate possession, the sprightly and rapid Ghanaian forwards should be able to exploit their pace against defences that are filled with players that are not quite so rapid. While being able to attack is no guarantee of being able to win, having a needle-sharp Gyan as part of that crew will at least ensure the Black Stars offer a regular goal threat.