Ghana making a noise in world football
‘Preparation is key.’ That is what they say. How a team approaches a game is almost as important as how it functions once the first whistle is blown. So much emphasis is placed on preparation in the modern game, but for Ghana, the hours prior to kick-off are crucial. Had it not been for Asamoah Gyan’s vibrant entrance to Wembley, many would have quite easily forgotten there was a match to be played. Everything focused around the cost of attending the friendly, the absence of England’s players that are involved in the latter stages of the Champions League and yet more discussion over who was to wear the armband for the home side. The credentials of a team that reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup were discarded, that was until Gyan equalised in second-half injury time.
For Gyan, the approach to matches helps Ghana retain its identity. The Sunderland forward has even implemented singing and dancing into the dressing room at the Stadium of Light but he feels it is vital with the national team; where he is the centre of attention. He said: “In camp, we joke, we laugh and we sing and dance and pray every night. That gives us strength and belief in what we’re doing. We love each other, we respect each other and we motivate any of the young players that are in the team.”
Despite the atmosphere within the Ghanaian setup it does not live without friction. Both Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah have had differences with past coaches that led to them being exiled from the squad at some point. It seems, however, that those days are behind Ghana. Muntari has made amends and scored in the Black Stars’ 3-0 African Cup of Nations qualifying win over Congo, and Michael Essien looks set to return to international football in the near future after two serious injuries. In Essien’s absence, even during Muntari’s stand-off with former coach Milovan Rajevac, Ghana have produced players in the form of Anthony Annan and Kwadwo Asamoah that have compensated the loss of the country’s most influential midfielders.
The fear with the African nations is whether any improvement can be sustained yet Ghana are the current Under 20 World Champions – beating Brazil in a penalty shoot-out – and the team that started at Wembley contained five players aged 22 or less. With many of its players scattered across the top leagues in Europe it provides Ghana with the resources to continue its emergence as an established country in the football world. Perhaps Ghana has good reason to sing and dance, after all.