The Black Stars' schedule of international friendlies ahead of the 2014 World Cup features few A-list opponents. Goal explains why that could pose a challenge
By Sammie Frimpong
Getting pitted against international football powerhouses like Germany, Portugal and the USA meant Ghana could not put a foot wrong heading into the 2014 World Cup action in Brazil.
It meant, among other things, picking the best footballers available, coach Kwesi Appiah getting his tactics right, and also arranging testing international friendlies.
THE SILENT KILLER | Kwesi Appiah may know what he's up to with those friendlies
In line with the latter measure, the Ghana Football Association, since the beginning of 2014, has progressively released the dates on the Black Stars pre-World Cup friendly fixture list, with the yet-to-be-announced squad actually set to begin camping on May 25 in Rotterdam.
The first friendly opponents revealed, The Netherlands, proved a truly refreshing choice, as a well-timed encounter against the respected Oranje ahead of South Africa 2010 saw Ghana suffer a 4-1 thrashing that laid bare most of the team's flaws which, quite thankfully, coach Milovan Rajevac corrected just in time to get the west Africans in top-gear for the tournament itself. Ghana eventually went just a converted last-gasp penalty-kick short of earning a historic place in the last four - where, incidentally, the Stars could have faced The Netherlands again had they beaten Uruguay - while the Dutch themselves reached the final.
The remainder of the Stars' scheduled friendly opponents, however, have been surprisingly underwhelming options: Montenegro, Honduras, and Costa Rica.
In other words: Mediocre, Average, and Sub-par.
Take Montenegro for instance.
The tiny Balkan state's national team, which is one of the youngest on the international scene, is rated several places below Ghana on the current Fifa rankings, and has never even qualified for a major tournament. Hardly the kind of opposition to provide the African giants the level of abrasiveness required to hone our strengths and improve our game, based on pedigree alone.
The other two lined up, Costa Rica and Honduras, would be featuring in Brazil courtesy the second- and third-place spots they achieved in CONCACAF qualifying, much to their credit.
That the pair played the USA, one of Ghana's group rivals come June, in their regional qualification series makes them a fairly solid test, with our meeting against the Yanks in mind. That aside, though, the two have precious little quality to offer; neither holds any more hope than the Black Stars do of causing significant impact at the World Cup. In fact, Ghana are far better off, considering the country's present Fifa ranking of 24th is a significant improvement on Costa Rica's (32) and Honduras' (43).
In lieu of one of them, we could have picked an European or North/South American superpower - as have some of our fellow World Cup-bound African sides - to do our preparations greater good.
Of course, there are those who would argue friendlies count for very little, be they against opposition great or small. After all, wasn't lowly Latvia the last side we played - and beat - prior to staging a fine outing at the 2010 World Cup? Granted, but that is no excuse not to do things better this time round, is it?
Prepare well, test your strengths against the best, and go on to have a great tournament.
It does sound logical, doesn’t it?