It’s not been easy for Razak Brimah to be accepted as Ghana’s number one, yet after his Spiderman-inspired showing against Mali, perhaps supporters will begin to view the Black Stars’ stopper as one of the team’s key men.
The Cordoba guardsman was part of a swathe of changes made to the squad by then coach Kwesi Appiah during qualification for the 2015 Nations Cup, and ultimately played every minute of Ghana’s run to the Afcon final in Bata.
However, despite a series of fine performances in that competition—he could have been the hero of the shootout had the Black Stars’ last three penalty takers not fluffed their lines—the 29-year-old has steadily lost the faith of the nation’s fans.
Some would never have had him there in the first place, while others have sought various opportunities to get him back in the side.
Of course, Adam Kwarasey has been one of the great distractions of Grant’s tenure, and it’s intriguing to imagine what the Israeli coach’s pursuit of the Brondby stopper would have done for Brimah’s confidence.
While Kwarasey did ultimately return to the squad, making his comeback in the defeat by Russia in September 2016, Grant stuck with Brimah for the draw with Uganda and the defeat by Egypt in World Cup qualifying.
Nonetheless, there were no guarantees that the Spain-based keeper would start at the tournament itself, particularly after Grant named Kwarasey in his provisional squad.
Back in May 2015, a Goal poll revealed that 87 percent of respondents wanted Kwarasey and not Brimah between the sticks for the national side.
Ultimately, the latter’s injury concerns meant the former Chelsea boss never had to make this decision, although there were one or two fans who would have liked to have seen Fatau Dauda return at Brimah’s expense.
Now, while Dauda still leads the national side’s singing as they approach the Port-Gentil stadium, it’s Brimah who holds forth in net while the elder man watches on.
Some of the criticism aimed at Brimah, who has struggled for gametime at his club side, has arguably been fair after a series of sub-par performances, but the stopper responded to the doubters ahead of the tournament and insisted that he was ignoring the negativity.
Supporters on Twitter regularly identify Brimah as an ‘imposter’, with others questioning—only half in jest—how much he’s had to pay Grant to take a starting spot for the Black Stars.
On Saturday evening, however, Brimah delivered an inspiring showing as Ghana beat Mali 1-0 to guarantee their berth in the quarter-finals. It was the Black Stars’ second consecutive clean sheet—Egypt are the only other team in the tournament not to have conceded a goal—and their second victory by a one-goal margin.
Brimah, it’s worth noting, has now gone five games at the Nations Cups finals without conceding a goal, and has conceded one in his last seven at major tournaments.
And yet it wasn’t a completely comprehensive display, with Brimah called upon on several occasions to keep the increasingly desperate Eagles at bay during the latter stages of the match.
Notably, he produced a fine stop to deny Moussas Marega and Doumbia, and then Kalifa Coulibaly and Bakary Sako in stoppage time, as Ghana secured their passage to the knockout rounds.
Not only does Brimah deserve credit for keeping his composure during the latter stages as Mali’s barrage intensified, but he also must be praised for keeping his concentration levels so high—other goalkeepers might have switched off during the long spells of Ghanaian dominance.
While the likes of Asamoah Gyan and Jordan Ayew will doubtless take the majority of the plaudits after another narrow triumph, these three points must also largely be attributed to Brimah…and his Spiderman sidekick.
Performances like this, particularly behind a patched-up defence, could well go a long way to ensuring that Brimah finally gets accepted by the Ghana supporters. Certainly, his showings at the Afcon to date should end the clamour for Kwarasey…for now at least.