By Emmanuel Asante Attakora, GNA
Accra, June 11, GNA - With less than two weeks to the start of the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt, head coach James Kwesi Appiah released his 23-man squad for the competition.
With James Kwesi Appiah’s list not so much of a surprise to many, following the omission of Majeed Waris, Mohammed Alhassan, Yaw Yeboah, Ebenezer Ofori, Abdul Fatawu and injured Nuhu Musah, GNA Sports takes a look into what might have prompted the coach and his technical handlers to settle on the final 23 out of the 29, that were invited for a training camp in Dubai.
Richard Ofori: In the goalkeeping department, where three fantastic pair of hands find themselves, the onus would be on Black Stars goalkeepers trainer Richard Kingston and Kwesi Appiah to hand a starting role to Richard Ofori, who having earned his first senior call up into the national team in 2016, has been the Stars safest pair of hands over this period, with 33 appearances for his South African based club Martizburg and keeping ten clean sheets in the process.
Lawrence Ati-Zigi: He represents another pair of hands for the Stars. He plies his trade with Sochaux in the French Ligue Two. Though he has not been a regular face in post, the 22-year-old who stands at 6 feet 2 inches (6ft 2in) has always executed himself well when called upon, having made eleven appearances and keeping three clean sheets in the process.
Felix Annan: The only local player to make in into the Stars final 23-man squad is Kumasi Asante kotoko’s Felix Annan, who has helped the Porcupine Warriors in their failed quest in the Confederation Cup competition.
With a strong backing from the local football fans in Ghana over his inclusion in the team, Annan would prove to be a worthy competitor for Richard Ofori and Ati Zigi.
In the heart of defence is John Boye, who has helped his club Metz in France gained promotion into the French top flight league, making 38 appearances in the process.
Boye, 32, could be having his last nations cup appearance, but is expected to bring his experience to bear at the center of defence, as he made his national team debut in June 2008 and has had two African Cup of Nations and one world cup experience in 2012, 2015 and 2014 respectively.
Reading FC stalwart Andy Yiadom makes his second appearance at the continental showpiece with a lot of experience from the rugged play of the English championship, where he made 48 appearances for his club to escape relegation.
Yiadom comes into the national team with a
lot of versatility as he can play at full back or as winger, an additional
option for Ghana, when the needed arises.
With injuries forcing him out for a greater part of the 2018/2019 season, Abdul Baba Rahman has found his rhythm with French side Reims.
With surging runs down the flanks, Baba Abdul Rahman who was part of Ghana’s 2015 squad at the AFCON has the potential of joining attack and recovering his tracks with so much calmness.
Featuring eight times for Sporting CP in the Portuguese top flight before leaving on a loan to Göztepe in the Turkish league, Lumor Agbenyenu is a naturally gifted left back who can link up with attack at any given time.
Joining the senior national team in 2017, Lumor has gone on to make win nine caps for the Black Stars as he hopes to build on it with his first major tournament with the country.
Another AFCON debutant, Kassim Nuhu, with German side Hoffenheim has made16 appearances for Hoffenheim after he missed a month of action on the sidelines due to injury.
Having played for Real Mallorca in Spain, Young Boys in Switzerland and in Germany, the six feet three inches tall (6ft 3in) defender would be of good service to the Stars if he can use his height to his advantage on set-pieces and corner kicks.
Jonathan Mensah of Columbus Crew SC in USA making his fourth appearance at the continental showpiece, Mensah boast of enormous experience to help the Stars course of ending the 37-year trophy drought.
Egypt being his first major international trophy land after winning the World U-20 tournament, Mensah would love to add to his memories after also making two appearances at the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) world cups in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014.
Joseph Aidoo having had a blistering season with Genk in Belgium, the young defender had his first national team call up in March 2019, impressing the Stars technical handlers with his calmness on the pitch.
With forty-one matches including Europa League games, Aidoo has been a stand out performer for the Belgium side as they won their top flight league.
The young energetic defender would be having a taste of the AFCON for the first time and would be hoping to contribute meaningfully to the team.
A player of so much versatility is Joseph Attamah, who plays for Turkish side Basaksehir, Attamah could be deployed at right back when the need be, though he favours a defensive midfield position.
Also making his maiden appearance at the 2019 AFCON, Attamah would relish the desire of ending the trophy drought when given the chance.
One of the senior players coach Kwesi Appiah would be counting on to deliver is Mubarak Wakaso, who has enjoyed a fruitful season with the Spanish based club Alaves, where he has made twenty-nine appearances with a goal and an assist.
With so much experience under his belt in such tournaments, the left footed midfielder would be a starter for Ghana, as he would leave no stone unturned in a quest to write his name in gold for his country.
Winning the Best Sports Personality in Ghana comes with so much work and dedication and Thomas Partey has exhibited that at the highest level.
Helping guide Atletico Madrid to a second spot finish in the 2018/2019 league season, Partey has what it takes to marshal a winsome midfield for Ghana.
With three goals, four assists and forty-two outings for the Spanish club, Partey’s positive contribution would propel Ghana to a very good tournament.
A player with so much flair at left back and central midfield position is Kwadwo Asamoah, who can defend and score at a distance.
Asamoah as the Deputy Captain of the Black Stars comes with a lot of experience on the field of play, having played at the highest level of professional football.
With so much success at Juventus and now with Inter Milan, his experience would be greatly felt with his pick-point and accurate passes.
Having made four appearances at the AFCON and two at the world cup, Asamoah would be heavily relied on to provide support for the attackers when deployed in the midfield.
With only one appearance for his club Hibernian based in Scotland due to injuries, Thomas Agyepong would be making his debut at the 32nd biennial competition, where if given the chance would love to prove his inclusion in the team.
A solid and tough tackler of the ball, Afriyie Acquah having enjoyed a great season with Empoli in the Italian top flight, Ghana would heavily depend on his strength and ability to intercept opponents play.
With one world cup tournament under his belt, the former Torino man could be called upon at any time to sit in front of the back four and disrupt play.
Newly instated Captain Andre Dede Ayew, come with six goals for his club Fenerbahçe, where he is serving on a loan from Swansea city.
Having won the U20 FIFA world cup with Ghana in Egypt ten years ago as captain of the National U20 team, Dede would fancy his chances of repeating that fete in this year’s tournament.
With so much passion, dedication and leadership traits, Dede would love to make history by lifting the trophy on same land that gave him his first major international trophy.
With over twelve years of national team experience, the attacking midfielder who could also be used as a second striker has had four AFCON tournaments and two world cup experience in 2010 and 2014 in south Africa and brazil respectively.
Christian Atsu, who has had a lot of loan spells in a bid to mature and develop as a young talented player is now with English Premiership side Newcastle United, where he helped them to secure another year of top flight football.
As a winger, although he has also been deployed as an attacking midfielder, Atsu has an eye for goal with his pace and dribbling abilities, where the Stars would rely upon very much.
Having featured in AFCONs and one world cup, he would be called upon to deliver his long range shots as Ghana fight to deliver gold come June 21 to July 19, 2019 in Egypt.
Another debutant for the tournament is Cukaricki’s Samuel Owusu, who played 33 time for the Serbian side scoring seven goals and providing ten assists.
Being one of the country’s prolific strikers, Asamoah Gyan is a house hold name in the annals of grana football.
Though he had been struggling with injuries for his Turkish side Kayserispor, Ghana’s most experienced player going into this tournament could not have been overlooked, considering his abilities and never say die attitude.
Being drafted in the Black Stars team in 2003, Gyan has featured in hundred and six games for Ghana scoring fifty-one goals in the process.
With his playing career taking him through Italy, France, England, UAE, China and Turkey, Gyan has made four African cup of nations, four FIFA world cups and one Olympic Games participation.
As he is feared in by many defenders in and around the continent, his magical moments would prove a good course for Ghana in a tournament touted as “the return of the trophy”.
The younger of the Ayew brothers is Jordan Ayew, who plays for English side Swansea City but on loan at Crystal Palace has had two AFCONs under his belt and one world cup appearance in 2014.
Having been played out of his favorite position at his club level, Jordan has managed a paltry two goals out of twenty-five outings for his club.
Jordan would be tasked to lead the line for Ghana having won fifty-two caps in the national colours and scoring fourteen goals in the process and with Majeed Waris been left out of the final squad as age not too well on Gyan’s side.
Caleb Ekuban, twenty-five made his mark when he was handed a brief stint with the Black Stars against the Harambee Stars of Kenya in the 2019 AFCON qualifier at the Accra Sports Stadium and he executed that with his first ever international goal for Ghana.
The Trabzonspor forward followed it up with a brilliant showing when Ghana took on Mauritania in an international friendly, where he scored again to the admiration of Ghanaians.
Having scored eight goals and provided three assists in 36 games for Trabzonspor in turkey, a lot would be required from him as he makes his debut afcon tournament.
21-year-old Kwabena Owusu, who plays for Spanish side Leganes, would have to live up to expectations as he has been given a rare call up into the national team to the omission of Majeed Waris.
Like Kwesi Appiah said before his final selection, “I wish I could take all of the players to Egypt” but that is not possible per the rules, thus each and every player must prove his worth and when given the chance.
The Star would be looking forward to end the 37-year old trophy draught at the 2019 AFCON with the above listed players and the qualities.