By Theophilis Takyi
With Harrison Afful out, Ghana’s headache at defence has only aggravated, especially at left-back. Samuel Inkoom started on the right side of the defence in the stronger 11 during the training game against the Kumasi-based side Deportivo. This can be seen as a strange selection as the Dnipro defender has had a succession of poor games for the Black Stars that position. At left-back Kwadwo Asamoah looks set to start over Baba Rahman and Addy who are naturals in the position. Although he has played as a left wing-back regularly for Juventus, the positional requirements compared to full back are almost entirely different and he may be severely tested against Egypt’s Mohamed Salah in a position he is not entirely comfortable. Another implication of Asamoah at full back means the control he offers in the midfield would be absent.
Essien and Muntari’s midfield partnership
Essien is returning to national duties at a time he had fallen down the pecking order at Chelsea. This is likely to affect his partnership with Sulley Muntari. Muntari is a technically proficient player, capable of defence splitting passes and a powerful shot. He can, however, be lethargic in midfield and often needs someone who is more energetic and defensively aware alongside him to make up for his deficiencies. The problem is Essien has dipped in form and since Aboutreika will be in that zone looking for space this could spell trouble for Ghana.
Egypt’s extra body in the middle
Majeed Waris and Asamoah Gyan are almost sure starters up top so Egypt will have a numerical advantage in the middle of the field which may become hazardous if Gyan, as the deep roaming striker does not pick up Egypt’s deepest midfielder. Due to this advantage to Egypt, Ghana may drop off into two low banks of four and compress the space Aboutreika has to operate in so he is further away from goal at the expense of giving Egypt the lion’s share of the possession. If the Pharaohs do have the ball for long periods of time without penetration this could be advantageous to the Black Stars as the likes of Andre Ayew, Wakaso, Gyan and Waris can launch rapid counterattacks to exploit the slow Wael Gomaa.
The Switzerland-based midfielder looks to be Egypt’s secondary threat after Aboutreika and there are a few strategies Kwesi Appiah may employ to stop him. The first one being the most obvious - to double up on him. Although Wakaso does tend to give away a ludicrous amount of fouls as a result he is also very diligent in tracking back towards his own goal. This means in the defensive phases he can tuck in on the inside of Kwadwo Asamoah (if he starts) to prevent Salah from cutting in, forcing him outwards where Ghana’s centre halves can head away crosses to the smaller Nagy Gedo. This would leave the Egyptian right back free but if the more conservative Ahmed Fathi starts over the marauding El Mohammady the issue would be minute.
None of Ghana’s three goalkeepers in camp is in the best of form ahead of the Egypt clash. Kwarasey let in a howler in the training match. Dauda keeps warming the bench in South Africa and has not convinced. Veteran Richard “Olele” Kingson has dipped in form. Whoever starts needs a great deal of shielding from the guardsmen.