Africa Cup of Nations 2012: One to watch – Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu

Name: Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu

Age: 21

Position: Defensive/Central Midfielder

Club/Nation: Udinese/Ghana

At one point 21-year-old Ghanaian, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, seemed destined to miss the tournament. Injured for Udinese in a Europa League tie against Celtic, Badu was out for over three weeks. The young Zebrette player finally gave an interview to Asempa FM sports show ‘Fire on Fire’ that he had been screened and declared fit by the Italian doctors and was available for selection. Good news for the fans of the Black Stars.

Badu is perhaps the least heralded of the three Udinese players going to the tournament, with Moroccan defender, Mehdi Benatia and fellow Ghanaian Kwadwo Asamoah grabbing more of the attention.

However, in Italy and Ghana, Badu has been earning favourable reviews. Perhaps more for the seamless way in which the players he has replaced in the Udinese and Ghanaian teams have not been missed. The fact that the two players are Gokhan Inler and Michael Essien may speak volumes for Badu. With Inler sold by Udinese and Essien’s long term injury, Badu was turned to and comfortably filled the void. His position in the team has not been cemented yet, but he is gaining more and more playing time. A workaholic midfielder, his all-round contribution in defence and attack is one of his strengths.

Badu has a physical presence, that included with a natural pace and power gives him a natural athletic ability and may become a true box-to-box midfielder. Sitting in front of the back three at Udinese, Badu offers defensive cover for attacking midfielders. Whilst he may not tackle often (he has won 11 this season in 10 Serie A games), they can be fierce when he has. Arguably, Badu prefers to use his presence to close down space, disrupt and break up opposition attacks. Badu does offer attributes going forward. He passes well – 223 completed out of 265 this season, can burst forward using his pace and power, but also plays the long ball accurately, completing 29 long balls out of 34. This has perhaps suited Udinese, who can play quite direct football at time. This could also suit Ghana, with balls being played to their roving striker Asamoah Gyan on a quick break.

The international stage is not new to Badu. Part of the qualifying squad that conceded just one goal in six matches, the young Ghanaian was also an integral part of the Black Satellites victorious U-20 World Cup team, scoring the winning penalty in the final against Brazil. Badu has shown promise and appears to improve at each stage of his career – perhaps this tournament will offer the next step on his development.

Interestingly he is quoted as saying that apart from Ghana, he would have loved to have played for England, stating:“I love their passion for football, and also the fans put in great support when their national team is playing. They make the game worth watching.”

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