Spare a thought for Asamoah Gyan. The Ghanaian forward was in fine form at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, scoring a late winner against Serbia in the Black Stars’ opening group stage match, followed by an injury-time strike that propelled his team to a win over the United States in the round of 16. So when Luis Suarez intentionally handled the ball inside his penalty area to prevent a goal deep into injury time in the quarterfinals, Gyan naturally stepped up to the spot. But his attempt hit the crossbar and despite converting later in the penalty shootout, Uruguay won. Ghana would have been the first African nation to qualify for the semifinals in World Cup history if only Gyan put away his chance. Four years later, Gyan and Ghana return to the World Cup, looking to go one step further.
Goalkeepers: Fatau Dauda (Orlando Pirates), Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset), Stephen Adams (Aduana Stars)
Defenders: Samuel Inkoom (Platanias), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege), Harrison Afful (Esperance), John Boye (Rennes), Jonathan Mensah (Evian), Rashid Sumalia (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Midfielders: Michael Essien (AC Milan), Sulley Muntari (AC Milan), Rabiu Mohammed (Kuban Krasnodar), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese), Afriyie Acquah (Parma), Christian Atsu (Vitesse Arnhem), Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough), Andre Ayew (Marseille), Mubarak Wakaso (Rubin Kazan)
Forwards: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Schalke), Abdul Majeed Waris (Valenciennes), Jordan Ayew (Sochaux)
James Kwesi Appiah is the first Ghanaian to lead the Black Stars to the World Cup, having previously been in charge of the country’s under-23 team.
4-2-3-1: (GK) Kwarasey – (D) Opare, Boye, Mensah, Afful – (M) Essien, Muntari, Ayew, Asamoah, Boateng – (F) Gyan
Group G schedule
June 16: vs. United States in Natal
June 21: vs. Germany in Fortaleza
June 26: vs. Portugal in Brasilia
How they qualified
Quite comfortably, actually. They won their second round group, which included lightweights Lesotho and Sudan, by four points over 2012 African Cup of Nations winners Zambia, winning five of six games (with only one loss), outscoring the opposition 18-3 along the way. Ghana then faced a daunting Egypt side, one of the traditional powers of African soccer, in what on paper appeared to be challenging home-and-home playoff series. But the Black Stars embarrassed Egypt, seven-time African champions, by a whopping 7-3 aggregate score line to book their place in next year’s tournament.
Ghana’s midfield is their best hope. Appian can call on the top-notch tandem of Michael Essien in the holding role, Sully Muntari in the middle, Andre Ayew on the wing and the versatile Kwadwo Asamoah playing wherever he’s needed.
On paper, at least, the Black Stars’ defence doesn’t look like it has the quality to hold up to the world’s best. No matter how you slice it, Ghana’s backline is manned by journeymen talents, which could be easy prey for the mighty Germans or the Cristiano Ronaldo’s incisive talent.
Players to watch
Kevin-Prince Boateng: A world-class talent, the Schalke forward has a flair for the exceptional and the ability to take on defenders.
Asamoah Gyan: The captain and best player from 2010, Gyan is the kind of star who ups his game for his country. He may play in a weak league in the UAE, but he’s show he can still burn top sides.
Kwadwo Asamoah: The ultimate utility man, the recent Serie A–winner with Juventus can be deployed in defensive midfield, in creative centre or out on the wing.
Can they sink the U.S. yet again? Ghana has been the American’s bugbear at the World Cup, topping them in the Round of 16 in South Africa and knocking them out at the group stage in 2006. This year, the U.S. looks like the better team, and though it will be hard for either to get through the group, the Americans look the more likely.
Prospects in Brazil
Not good. In another group, maybe Ghana would sneak through, but in this group they’re the small fry, the team everyone is counting on to get a win against that will let them push on towards a knockout round place. They may have a few surprises in them, but getting out of the group would be a downright shock.
World Cup history
This is the just the Black Stars’ third World Cup appearance. The only made the group stage in 2006, and were Africa’s best team in 2010, reaching the quarterfinals in 2010. You’d get very long odds indeed on them continuing that trend by making the semifinals this time around.
• 1930 to 1958—Did not enter
• 1962—Did not qualify
• 1966— Did not enter
• 1970 to 1978—Did not qualify
• 1982—Did not enter
• 1986 to 2002—Did not qualify
• 2006—Second round
Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States