Sunday, 30 December 2012


by Kweku Zurek (@arsonv on twitter,
When the 29th edition of the African Cup of Nations tournament fixed for 19 January to 10 February in South Africa begins the Black Stars of Ghana will be expected to end their 31year trophy drought.
 In this piece I take a look into how the squad will be wittled down and how they will line up for their first game after their training tour in Abu Dhabi. First off, Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah faces the task of dropping 3 players from his provisional 26man squad. The three players to face the axe will be Rashid Sumaila of current Ghana Glo Premier League champions;  Asante Kotoko, midfielder  Rabiu Mohammed who plies his trade at Evian in the French Ligue 1 and the Ghana Glo Premier League leading scorer Yahaya Mohammed(Amidaus Professionals).  These three Players will be dropped basically because of a lack of international experience. This will leave the former Black Stars captain Kwesi Appiah with a battle-ready 23 which will include;
 Goalkeepers: Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset, Norway), Fatau Dauda (AshantiGold, Ghana), Daniel Adjei (Liberty Professionals, Ghana)
Defenders: John Paintsil (Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Israel), Harrison Afful (Esperance, Tunisia), Mubarak Wakaso (Espanyol, Spain), Richard Kissi Boateng (Berekum Chelsea, Ghana), John Boye (Rennes, France), Jonathan Mensah (Evian, France), Isaac Vorsah (Red Bull Salzburg, Austria), Jerry Akaminko (Eskisehirspor, Turkey), Awal Mohammed (Maritzburg United, South Africa).
Midfielders: Andre Ayew (Marseille, France), Christian Atsu (FC Porto, Portugal), Anthony Annan (Osasuna, Spain), Derek Boateng (Dnipro, Ukraine), Solomon Asante (Berekum Chelsea, Ghana), Emmanuel Agyemang Badu (Udinese, Italy), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus, Italy), Albert Adomah (Bristol City, England).
Forwards: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain, UAE), Emmanuel Clottey (Esperance, Tunisia), Richmond Boakye Yiadom (Sassoulo, Italy).
Ghana will start the competition in Group B alongside DR Congo, Mali and Niger. Now comes the question of which system and players to field, in the past i.e. since the 2008 AFCON tournament the Black  Stars have lined up with a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 system with the current captain Asamoah Gyan leading the line and Kwadwo Asamoah playing in the hole behind him. Indeed these two systems have served the Stars well with a second place AFCON finish in Angola and a Luis Suarez save barring their progression to the semi-finals at the 2010 World Cup.
I think its time for a change that will get the best out of the current squad and also bring some much needed  unpredictability. I propose a switch to 3-5-2, something along the  lines of Conte’s Juventus.
Goalkeeper- Adam Kwarasey, there is no contest when it comes to the goal-keeping position as Kwarasey stands heads and shoulders above his fellow team-mates. the Stromsgodset shot-stopper is a starter at his clubside  and is the only goalie in the squad who plies his trade in Europe. He experienced a baptism of fire in his first Nations Cup in Gabon so should be in good stead for this tournament. The number two will be Daniel Adjei of Liberty Professionals by virtue of his international experience.

 The 3 centre backs in the system will be ;
Centre-back - Isaac Vorsah, dominant in the air from both defensive and offensive situations, but has the tendency to be outpaced by very quick forwards.
Right centre-back - John Boye ,  a complete ball-playing centre-back who came to the fore during the last  AFCON in Gabon. A regular at Rennes but is sometimes a little over-eager at times in a tackle.
Left centre-back - Jerry Akaminko, has fought his way into the current Black-Stars set-up and will be eager to cement his spot after learning his trade in the Turkish league.
 This trio have the needed balance of aerial dominance, pace and the ability to read the game. When up against a very pacy attack Akaminko can make way for the much quicker Jonathan Mensah.
Up next is the 5 in midfield, arguably the most essential roles in this system are the two wing backs who must possess the required pace, both defensive and offensive awareness and stamina. In modern football the full backs are expected to initiate attacks as well as be solid in defence.
Left-wing back- Kwadwo Asamoah, the former Udinese man has excelled in this role at his new Juventus but still has a lot of work to do in order to convince his critics at home who accuse him of not excelling anytime he dons the national colours. Kwadwo has grabbed assists and goals in the Serie A from this position so it is a perfect-fit.
Right-wing back- Harrison Afful,the African champions league winner is very quick and also has an eye for goal but if he gets over-run he has a capable replacement in the veteran John Painstil(Pantsil).  The former West-Ham full-back is enjoying a revival of sorts at Israeli side Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Israel.
Central-midfielder- Derek Boateng, the Dnipro enforcer has been dropped to the reserved squad at club level but has the ability to play as the deep lying defensive midfielder in a trio. He also has a decent passing range and a healthy shot.
Right-central midfielder- Emmanuel Agyemang Badu,the all action box to box midfielder has been plagued by injuries this year but is one of those players who always excel for the nation. Badu is not afraid to tackle and also enjoys hitting the net from range. An excellent substitute for Badu will be the much more defensive minded Anthony Annan.
Left-central midfielder-: Andre Ayew, of  the three central midfielders he will shoulder much of the offensive responsibility. Andre’s brother Jordan did not receive a call-up albeit controversially but if the Marseille man is well managed he will provide a steady stream of goals and assists.
Second striker/Trequartista- Christian Atsu, this teenage prodigy is referred to by Ghanaian fans as the Ghanaian Messi, even though that may be a stretch(he hasn’t even scored 15 goals in a calendar year) he is a special talent. Blessed with great skill and close control Atsu will rip defenses apart on any stage, he will serve as a link between midfield and attack. At F.C. Porto he normally has a place on their substitutes bench but in a Ghana strip he is magnificent and also a bit of an unknown quantity.
Target-man/Centre Forward- Asamoah Gyan, the  most indispensable member and captain of the squad. Gyan takes a lot of abuse and flack from fans but he is the most consistent striker in the country and he seems to be the only one capable of playing as a lone striker. A fit Gyan can lead Ghana to success. He also has deputies in Richmond Boakye Yiadom of Sassuolo and CAF Champions League top-scorer Emmanuel Clottey.
Kwesi Appiah also has two quick, pacy impact subs on the bench in the persons of Solomon Asante (Berekum Chelsea, Ghana) and Albert Adomah (Bristol City, England).
With this team the African Cup of Nations will hopefully be making its home Accra,Ghana for the next two years.

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