Sports Features of Saturday, 17 May 2014
In sharp contrast to the usual behind the desk, sheets of paper presentation, Ghana’s national team coach looked every bit like a modern man; dressed in dapper white shirt, protected by a sharp tailored jacket and pants, Kwesi Appiah was nicely suited for the announcement of the famous 30 … no wait …26 man provisional World Cup squad via a multimedia presentation; projector, remote and all.
If fashion and technology were any indicators, the list had to have something good in store. Soon, he had exhausted the list, and at the mention of the 26th player, I smiled, Kwesi had me fully satisfied; now that was rare, considering that I have been one of his fiercest critics.
However on this day, Appiah’s ability to balance trust and experience with youth and form deserves credit.
It is not uncommon to hear coaches give politically correct interviews and tough sound bites with high flying criteria for call ups, but at the end of the day, most usually go with players they can trust in critical positions and risk in peripheral positions.
That is exactly how Appiah balanced his squad. A quick dissection will make it all the more clearer.
Two of the goalkeepers clearly made it on merit: Adam Larsen Kwarasey, captain of Norwegian side, Strømsgodset; solid in Norway yet nervy in the Black Stars post.
There is this ridiculous theory that, his shaky performances is down to voodoo! True or not, Kwarasey has done enough at club level to merit his place. It was an easy pick, all he has to do is to overcome his mental block and he will be number one.
Then there is Stephen Adams of Aduana Stars, I mean really, was anybody expecting Adams after his impressive 2014 CHAN outing to miss out? I guess not, plus Appiah would have considered him as his “local” card to satisfy the “localists” movement.
Then there is South Africa based, Fatau Dauda. Fatau was clearly “rewarded” for manning post and qualifying the team to the World Cup. Ordinarily, all the heat he generated warming bench at Orlando Pirates could have burnt his chance to make the team, but apparently his enthusiasm and recent experience as number one goalie was hard to gloss over.
Only Injury would have kept him out.
Now, this is the department that generated the biggest controversy. Like I mentioned earlier, coaches do not joke with the spine of their teams. Central defense requires not only talented players, but leaders who can use their experience to organize the back line.
It is the reason why, absurd as it is, Appiah and his technical team prior to the announcement considered former captain John Mensah, now battling match fitness and Isaac Vorsah, who hasn’t played competitively in over a year.
Appiah has come under scathing attack for not including any local defender, especially those who excelled at the 2014 CHAN, but you can understand Appiah’s apprehension at the lack of leadership and experience, it’s the reason he has gone for players he’s familiar with and can trust; Samuel Inkoom, Daniel Opare, Jerry Akaminko, Rashid Sumaila, Jonathan Mensah, John Boye and Harrison Afull.
The last of the bunch of 8 defenders, Jeffrey Schlupp, Appiah’s risk card, certainly brings in quality at left back. Schlupp, who contributed to Leicester City’s promotion to the English Premier League, will bring simple, unfashionable defending, combined with pace and power; ingredients, close watchers and more importantly, Appiah, is ready to gamble on.
11 Midfielders! Phew! Talk about being spoiled for riches! Based solely on experience, it is no surprise that Appiah has kept faith with AC Milan duo, Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari.
Despite his poor season, Essien provides options in defensive midfield, where he can provide a calming presence, indeed, when push comes to shove, he can even cover at Centre back.
Muntari’s two World Cup experiences could also be vital in the middle of the park. Beyond experience, there were slots for youthful players who would run their socks off; destruct and construct at the same time; Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, Mubarak Wakaso, Andre Ayew and work horse Rabiu Mohammed, will all be on hand to support the experienced Milan duo.
Parma’s in form player, Afriyie Acquah, a “mini Essien”, with boundless energy, provides a backup for Rabiu, who just returned to competitive action.
Then there are the wingers; Albert Adomah, in the team for his direct English style and crosses, Christian Atsu for his guile, and of course Kwadwo Asamoah not only for his consistent form for Juventus, but his ability to play across the left and in the middle.
Then there is David Accam who is in red hot form, scoring 12 goals in 13 games this year for his Swedish team, Helsingborg.
I had written about him but I wasn’t cork-sure Appiah would give him a look in, but I guess Appiah learned the Waris lesson.
Abdul Majeed Waris was in similar form back in 2012 for his Swedish team, but Appiah overlooked him for the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa only for Waris to turn important scorer of goals in the World Cup qualifiers. You know what they say about those who make the same mistake twice…., yes, Appiah would want you calling him that.
In attack, Captain Asamoah Gyan’s name naturally will be the first to jump off the sheet, followed by his strike partner Abdul Majeed Waris.
The only surprise here is Kevin Prince Boateng, listed as a striker though he is a midfielder by trade; yes yes, call him opportunist, but Boateng will surely be an outlet for goals.
Then there is baby Ayew, Jordan; who staked a late claim with 4 goals in the last month for Sochaux in the French League. Was that enough to be picked ahead of Richmond Boakye Yiadom?
Is the composition of the list right? We will know the next time we see Kwesi Appiah directing affairs, not from a conference room but on the touchline, hopefully his tactics will be as exotic as his multimedia presentation.