Ghana’s World Cup qualifying campaign quite didn’t exactly follow the script, but did the national side do enough in their final group game against Egypt to end the campaign on something of a high note?
Few predicted that the Black Stars would win only one of three home games during the group stage, emerge victorious in just one of six matches or host the Pharaohs in Cape Coast – rather than Accra, Kumasi or Tamale.
Certainly, few foresaw the hotly anticipated Ghana-Egypt showdown turning out to be a dead rubber – graced by fringe players on both ends and received with apathy.
Despite the unexpectedly low-key contest, Kwesi Appiah saw his own importance in the contest, and was busy on the touchline throughout, belting out cries of instructions, urging on his players and, most importantly, running the rule over his new boys.
For Appiah, the objective of the game was very much to assess the qualities and deficiencies of his new call-ups.
“Playing against Egypt, we need to raise our ranking and at the same time, there are many players who need to be assessed,” the 57-year-old told Graphic Sports ahead of the game.
“So I should take this opportunity to look at them. I’m building a team for [the Africa Cup of Nations in] 2019 and that’s why I’m trying to invite a lot of players so that by the end of the year, we can sit back and say that now we are sure of these 10 players who can fit into the team.”
A 1-1 draw against a World Cup-bound team isn’t a bad result for a team undergoing rebuilding, although many were crestfallen by the home stalemate.
Perhaps any disappointment was understandable, as even with only three of the old guard—Daniel Amartey, Harrison Afful and the returning Mubarak Wakaso—the Black Stars still had enough to trouble the Nations Cup finalists in front of their own fans.
With Andre and Jordan Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah, Asamoah Gyan, Christian Atsu, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Razak Brimah, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Abdul Rahman Baba all missing for various reasons, Sunday’s set-up aptly fitted the ‘new-look’ description as billed.
Goalkeeper Richard Ofori had a great game by his own standards, and left-back Lumor Agbenyenu showed flashes of brilliance, but it will be in Appiah’s own interest to audition new men for the role, as the Portimonense full-back is yet to truly convince at international level.
On his competitive Ghana debut, Young Boys defender Kasim Adams put up a commanding display at centre-back. Similarly, there’s no doubt about the quality of Stuttgart man Ebenezer Ofori, but with only nine minutes of game time in the Bundesliga this season, it was little wonder the former AIK midfielder had his worst game in Ghana colours.
Debutants Nana Ampomah and Godfred Donsah were the Black Stars’ poorest men on the pitch, and it was little coincidence when they were the first to be hauled off by Appiah…even if the former’s first-half substitution was forced by injury.
In Asamoah Gyan’s absence, Raphael Dwamena was picked ahead of Richmond Boakye-Yiadom for the lone-striker role and strictly going by this performance, neither Gyan nor Boakye will lose any sleep.
However, Norway-based Edwin Gyasi, born in the Netherlands to Ghanaian parents, certainly covered himself in glory.
Not only was the 26-year-old floating bubble of alacrity and excitement down the flanks, but he ultimately found the equalizer that ensured Ghana’s campaign ended on something of an optimistic note…given the context.
Majeed Waris’ struggles in the national colours continue as he failed to make any significant impact as a second-half substitute, and for Astana attacker Patrick Twumasi, he was left ruing his regrettable showing, having wasted many efforts including a free-header.
It’s fair to say, then, that Appiah left the Cape Coast Sports Stadium a satisfied man as he dodged defeat, gave run outs to several players and had the chance to test the strength of his new-look team against a good side.
A win would have been the icing on the cake, but there are certainly positives to take as we look ahead to the 2019 Nations Cup.