World Cup Wonder – Even without Essien, Ghana pose a threat

This will be Ghana’s second World Cup and they will hope to repeat if not better the performance of 2006 when they reached the second round. However they will be without star player Michael Essien which may hinder their progress. Head Coach Milovan Rajevac has a great deal of experience managing in Serbia but this will be his first World Cup and so his biggest challenge to date. He has at his disposal some very talented players and faces a selection headache over who to play and who to leave out.

In goal there is no real question who will start. Richard Kingson has over 70 caps for the Black Stars – 70 more than his rivals for the position. Kingson has struggled to get games in the Premier League for Wigan Athletic and Rajevac will hope his lack of regular appearances will not affect his form in the tournament. Should Rajevac make the peculiar decision of dropping Kingson he will have to call on either Daniel Adjei or Stephen Ahorlu. Both keepers are inexperienced and have never played in leagues outside Ghana and they may struggle with the difference in quality, so come 13 June expect Kingson to be between the sticks.

Rajevac has quite a challenge on his hands picking a sturdy defence. In the centre he has the options of John Mensah, Isaac Vorsah, Samuel Inkoom, Hans Sarpei and John Paintsil, although Paintsil is also a candidate for the right-back slot. Mensah looks to be a cert for one of the slots, however he is prone to injuries – much like Ledley King – and may struggle to complete all the games he is required to. Despite this he is a quality defender and proved so while on loan at Sunderland last season where he was outstanding in the games he managed. Partnering Mensah may be Vorsah. Although he lacks experience he has a great deal of ability and proved so in the Bundesliga last season for Hoffenheim. If Rajevac chooses to go with experience Sarpei could be the option as he has over 25 caps and has also played in the Bundesliga for the past 9 years with Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen. At right-back John Paintsil’s experience and excellent form with Fulham over the past year should see him get the nod over Samuel Inkoom, while the left-back slot could be filled by Sarpei if he is not needed at in the centre, or could be filled Lee Addy, although he has only played three times for the national team. Jonathan Mensah is also available to cover anywhere across the back-line if needed.

Ghana will certainly miss the presence of Essien in midfield and may have to change their approach without him. Rajevac will probably play with a midfielder sitting in front of the back four which is likely to be the captain Stephen Appiah although, depending on the system played, he may be joined by Anthony Annan. Rajevac has a lot of options for the centre slots including Derek Boateng, Sulley Muntari, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Kwadwo Asamoah. Muntari is expected to start in one of the slots, he has had an inconsistent spell at Inter but in his time at Portsmouth and Udinese proved he is a very capable player. There is little to choose between for the other spot as Boateng and Asamoah are both capable players who have played in some of the world’s top leagues. Asamoah may get the nod due to greater experience at international level. Depending if Rajevac goes with one up front, there will be two spaces out wide. Options on the flanks for Rajevac include former Arsenal player Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, Abdul Rahim Ayew, Andre Ayew and Matthew Amoah who can also play up front or just off the front man. Abdul Rahim Ayew has an impressive record at international level, as does Matthew Amoah, so if the system is played as predicted expect these two to start against Serbia.

Up front Rajevac is not blessed with a great of attacking options but he does have one very good player in Asamoah Gyan, who has a great goal scoring record at international level and at club level with Rennes. Rajevac will hope that he brings his best form to the tournament and that he remains injury free as, apart from Matthew Amoah, the other strikers have little experience of football at the top level.

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