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Sports Features of Thursday, 11 October 2018

Source: Goal.com

Why does cancelled Sierra Leone clash ruffle Kwesi Appiah and Ghana?

Considering this October date is the penultimate Fifa international break of the year, and with opportunities few and far between ahead of next year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament, the cancelled qualifying double-header between Ghana and Sierra Leone is nothing but a pretty pass for the Black Stars.

On Tuesday night, Caf announced the annulment of the matches slated for Thursday and Monday after the Sierra Leonean government failed to meet a Fifa ultimatum to reinstate the ousted Isha Johansen-led administration of the football association.

Sierra Leone, slapped with a Fifa ban on grounds of “governmental interference” on Friday, had pleaded that the Leone Stars be allowed to honour the games while football stakeholders undertake “processes to resolve the current impasse”.

In the early days of his reign as Ghana coach, James Appiah, who assumed duty in May last year, promised to have settled squad by mid-2017. His name has been on the lips of many agitated men lately. His crime? A lack of consistency in not only his squad selections but also in his line-ups.

It’s an accusation he cannot deny.

Against his much-talked-about paradigm of building a new young and hungry team, the 58-year-old handed recalls to veterans Harrison Afful, 32, and John Boye, 31, as well as the 27-year-old duo of Daniel Opare and Abdul Majeed Waris - all four players having been away from the Black Stars since 2017 - for September’s clash with Kenya.

There was also a debut called-up for 29-year-old Belgium-based striker William Owusu.

Interestingly, the 23-man squad for the Sierra Leone fixtures has a staggering 11 returnees, but that’s not even the crux of the matter.

Aside from goalkeeping, no other department in the team looks settled in Appiah’s starting squad.

Afful and Andy Yiadom, who played in the role against Kenya, are still fighting for the No. 2 position.

Appiah, meanwhile, toyed with playing Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey at right-back as he does at club level nowadays. The 23-year-old performed well in that position in the 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia last year, and it looks as though Appiah will be going for that option whenever Udinese’s Nicholas Opoku and Hoffenheim’s Kasim Adams are in the team to hold the centre-back slots.

With Boye and the Jonathan Mensah back, however, the centre-back pair may well change again.

In the absence of Abdul Rahman Baba, 22-year-old Sporting Lisbon man Lumor Agbenyenu has held Ghana’s left-back option. The latter’s complete lack of action at club level this season, however, is prompting a reconsideration.

Ebenezer Ofori and Afriyie Acquah, for a while, were Appiah’s midfield duo, but with Thomas Partey likely to revert to midfield after Appiah’s failed experiment in deploying the Atletico Madrid man as a No.10, coupled with the return of Inter Milan’s Kwadwo Asamoah – and to some extent Alaves ace Mubarak Wakaso – there’s certainly going to be some reorganization in the middle of the park.

And there’s still an ongoing audition for a complementary winger for Christian Atsu, with China-based Frank Acheampong, Manchester City loanee Thomas Agyepong, Alaves winger Patrick Twumasi, Waasland-Beveren ace Nana Ampomah and Bulgaria-based Edwin Gyasi the candidates. The possible return of Andre Ayew only complicates issues.

Asamoah Gyan, at 32, is still Ghana’s main striker despite not having played for the team since September 2017.

Jordan Ayew, Raphael Dwamena, Richmond Boakye-Yiadom, Emmanuel Gyasi and Bayern Munich striker Kwasi Okyere Wriedt are the other contenders.

And is there even a clear idea about Appiah’s playing system? Attack-minded? Defensive? All-around? Does his preferred 4-4-2 formation still stand or the recently experimented one-stop system has become primary?

The cancelled Sierra Leone fixtures have not only denied Appiah a valuable chance to get his act together but also deprives fans the opportunity to have a better idea of their team. Bear in mind, we're only eight months away from the Afcon finals.

Now that’s truly worrying.