Goal's Gideon Baah, ahead of the Black Stars’ final group game against Portugal today, shares his thoughts
Gideon Baah's World Cup diary
...and welcome to the latest entry in my 2014 World Cup diary.
In this episode, I will be considering the strengths of the Ghana team so far as well as the threats the Portuguese pose ahead of both sides' final Group G match in Brasilia this evening.
Many Ghanaians now believe strongly that Ghana have more than what it takes to progress to the next stage of the competition. In my opinion, though, Ghana's chances aren't quite guaranteed as much would also depend on the outcome of the other group game between Germany and the USA in Recife. On the other hand, I am quite satisfied with the output of the Black Stars thus far and can only give credit to coach Kwesi Appiah for it. If there is any major achievement the senior national team has made thus far at this World Cup, it is showing the whole world the range of football talent the country boasts and, for that reason, almost everyone feels Ghana do deserve to qualify to the next stage.
It has always been known that Ghana, at any level of international football competition, tend to improve progressively and indeed the trend at the ongoing Mundial has proved no different.
Many rue the opportunities Ghana missed in their opening match against the USA but I am of the opinion that that 2-1 defeat inspired the splendid performance against Germany.
That 2-2 draw - and the accompanying display - dignified many Ghanaians and few would be disappointed even if the Stars do not advance to the Round of 16. Against all odds, though, I believe Ghana WILL qualify. And, NO, I ain't a prophet; just a footballer who believes in his country's national team.
Still, one cannot undermine the threat of Portugal, beefed by the presence of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo: officially the world's best player and a man who could prove a handful for any defence at any given day.
One characteristic of the Portuguese team which could play into the hands of coach Appiah and his charges is a defence that proved porous in the absence of regulars Pepe and Fabio Coentrao against the USA and for sections of Portugal's opener versus Germany.
On paper, and considering Portugal's recent showings, Ghana are favourites to beat Paulo Bento's outfit. Without doubt, I can see the Stars cruising to victory this time if the spirited performance in the last match is repeated. On squad selection, concerns have been raised over just who could replace the highly influential yet suspended Sulley Muntari but, from my perspective, I think this is the best time to exploit the dynamism of
Michael Essien. In an offensive role, the Milan man could be a genuine force to reckon with.
The 31-year-old's vast experience, together with his peerless ability to link midfield with attack, makes him the best person to occupy that Muntari-sized void. Many Ghanaians are quite comfortable with the Black Stars facing any opposition at the World Cup and, against Portugal, nothing but a win will do. Needless to say, I do share those sentiments.
Irrespective of whether or not the team reaches the knockout rounds, the Stars have made us all proud. None can deny that.
In the days after the Germany game, I go to training every morning and my team-mates at Finnish champions Helsinki express their sheer admiration of the brand of exciting, entertaining football Ghana have exhibited in Brazil, and that certainly gives me much joy and pride.
It does make you feel same, right?
For a fact, I know the Stars would crown all that with a solid victory against Portugal today. Do remember to say a prayer for them, people. Anything is possible.