COMMENT By Prince Narkortu Teye Follow on Twitter
The raucous debate that followed Ghana’s squad announcement said it all: something significant, expected and unthinkable is happening with the Black Stars.
Kwesi Appiah’s maiden 30-man list following his return as coach featured only 12 players from the side that played at the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Mubarak Wakaso, arguably Ghana’s most consistent player since the 2015 Nations Cup, was a victim, while Christian Atsu, their best player at their last two tournaments, was nowhere to be found.
There was no trace of No.1 Razak Brimah, while second deputy captain Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu was also reported missing.
It was perceived as an unspeakable sacrilege and a gargantuan abomination, but amidst the eye-catching culls, the 56-year-old made a bold statement, and perhaps one that can be interpreted as a warning.
For a team seemingly on the decline, talk of change was indeed refreshing, but no one truly envisaged such a big shift following Appiah’s appointment.
His bold squad announcement was as much about the players left out of the team as the players included, but are the new additions good enough to justify the new boss’s faith?
In the absence of Brimah, and with Adam Kwarasey artfully withdrawing from the squad, Ghana will certainly line up with a new no.1. Local hero Richard Ofori, who has been in the squad for a while, is tipped to get the nod, but there are two other men in contention.
UPDATE: Adam Kwarasey, Godsway Donyoh and Mohammed Abu have been excused from Ghana's Afcon 2019 qualifier against Ethiopia on Sunday. — Prince Narkortu Teye (@TeyePrince) June 5, 2017
Felix Annan has been impressive for Asante Kotoko in the domestic league, but as seen against Hearts of Oak in Ghana’s biggest game of the calendar year, he can break under pressure. Joseph Addo was Ghana’s No.1 at the 2005 Under-17 World Cup and that big stage experience could serve him well.
With Harrison Afful, Daniel Amartey, John Boye and Jonathan Mensah all present, there’s unlikely to be much opportunity for new faces in defence, with the exception being at left-back.
However, it’s not impossible for either Rashid Sumaila or Jerry Akaminko to earn a surprise start, having shown their worth before Avram Grant took over only to subsequently be overlooked during the Israeli coach’s reign.
Liberty Professionals centre-back Samuel Sarfo is undoubtedly the best defender on the local scene, but with his apparent lack of experience at international level, it would be a major risk to throw him in at the deep end. The same must be said about Nicholas Opoku of Berekum Chelsea.
Injured Abdul Rahman Baba and resurgent Crystal Palace man Jeffrey Schlupp are expected to be Appiah’s primary long-term left-back options, but with both men absent, 1860 Munich youngster Lumor Agbenyenu and Aduana Stars Daniel Darkwah have a rare chance to stake a claim for a starting berth, even if their inexperience is genuine cause for concern.
The weight of expectation on relatively unknown Isaac Sackey, who plays in the Turkish league for Alanyaspor, gives him an added pressure to deal with, but truth be told, he’ll be lucky to make the matchday squad.
It’s the same story for Hearts of Oak star Winful Cobbinah and NAC Breda winger Thomas Agyepong. In FC Twente’s Yaw Yeboah, however, there’s a gem that could light up the Baba Yara Stadium, and don’t be surprised to see him given gametime in Sunday’s fixture.
Kevin-Prince Boateng aside, Majeed Waris and Rafael Dwamena were Ghana’s hottest strikers in Europe this season. With 12 goals for FC Zurich in their promotion campaign, Dwamena returns to the Black Stars camp in good form, while it should be business as usual for nine-goal hero Waris, who was shockingly left out of the Afcon party by Grant.
Appiah deserves credit for naming such a bold maiden squad following his return to the nation’s top job, but now is the time for his new boys to repay the faith shown in them.
Will Sunday’s outing fuel optimism of the new regime, or will it only serve to highlight how much work the returning head coach has to do?