Por: Inside The World Cup
Kwesi Appiah has filled the Black Stars with belief, and their exciting attack of Asamoah Gyan and Abdul Majeed Waris are ably supported by a midfield blending youth and experience
This article is part of the Guardian’s World Cup 2014 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between 32 of the best media organisations from the countries who have qualified for the finals in Brazil. theguardian.com is running previews from four countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 12 June.
The Black stars manager, Kwesi Appiah, has a disdain for systems. According to him players should be allowed to play free of tactical restraints to get the best out of them. He also believes in sticking with what works and is not known for experimentation.
In qualification for the World Cup, he stuck to the same group of players in a rigid 4-4-2; for so long Ghana have been masterful proponents of the 4-5-1. Appiah discovered the best way to get more out of his team during qualification was to give his captain and striker Asamoah Gyan some support. That came in the form of the diminutive striker Abdul Majeed Waris, whose willingness to run at defenders and take them out of position opened up space for Gyan. Nine goals were scored between the pair in qualification.
It is not certain that Appiah will continue with this gung ho approach considering the deficiencies in the team’s defence and goalkeeper, as well as the fearsome attacking talent in the Group G opponents: Portugal, Germany and USA.
The question of who starts at centre-back is still up in the air with Jerry Akaminko, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Rashid Sumaila and Isaac Vorsah fighting for the slots.
The long-tested midfield partnership of Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari will be broken up with Mohammed Rabiu taking a defensive midfield slot to offer the energy and pace that the two experienced players can no longer provide.
Appiah’s biggest problem is at full-back. His best left-back is a right-back by trade who spends his regular season playing in midfield at Esperance, Harrison Afful, while his other options, Samuel Inkoom and Daniel Opare are nothing if not inconsistent.
Upfront, Gyan is untouchable and should receive plenty of help from Kevin-Prince Boateng in a link role while Christian Atsu patrols the flank.
Appiah has proven to be consistent with his system but the greatest advantage he brings to this team is a belief in them and an innate ability to draw the best out of unsung players.
Who is the player who is going to surprise everyone at the World Cup?
Rabiu did not play in the first two games of the qualifying series but by the end was generally heralded as the most important player in the team. The Kuban Krasnodar enforcer is 24 but has already played for six clubs. He is a tireless runner with magnificent instincts while his tackling is top notch. He offers solid protection and a platform upon which the team builds their attacks. It is no easy task to make Essien and Muntari fight for a slot but that is what he has done in a year and is one of Appiah’s most trusted players.
Who is the player who is going to disappoint the most?
Sulley Muntari. For so long an untouchable for the Black Stars, Muntari is past his peak. His trademark ferociousness is gone as has his powerful left foot. He might start all the games but if things go awry, expect Ghanaian fans to point fingers at the Milan man.
What is the realistic aim for your team at the World Cup and why?
Semi-finals. The team is full of players with points to prove and in form at the right moment. The opening game against the USA in a tough group is the most important and a positive result will embolden an already confident squad. Germany beat the African side at the last World Cup but Portugal will not beat Ghana. Outside of Group G, none of the teams on the path to the semi-finals can claim to be better than the Black Stars