Akwasi Appiah’s Defensive Headache
This week, Black Stars Coach Kwasi Appiah released his 25-man squad to prepare for the crucial first leg of the 2014 World Cup playoff which saw the return of veteran goalkeeper Richard Kingson, Sulley Muntari and Jordan Ayew.
For close followers of the national team, the return of the trio was to be expected, given the clamour by Ghanaians, the media and subtle hints dropped by leading figures within the country’s football governing body because of the importance of the September 15 clash in Kumasi which could concretise or derail Ghana’s quest for a third successive World Cup appearance.
Coming barely a month after players such as Michael Essien, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Andre Ayew had ended their self-imposed exile, it is gratifying to note that Coach Appiah would have his strongest possible squad for the final World Cup hurdle against no mean a side than seven-time African champions, Egypt, who are desperate to make another World Cup appearance since 1990.
A closer look at the squad reveals a dearth of options in defence, as suspension and injuries have robbed Coach Appiah of dependable players such as Harrison Afful, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah and Isaac Vorsah.
And with Kingson recalled after a two-year hiatus following concerns over the form of first-choice goalie Fatau Dauda, who has been inactive since moving to South African side Orlando Pirates, there is little doubt that Ghana’s technical handlers have a difficult job at hand.
This is not the kind of situation any coach preparing for a World Cup playoff against an experienced Egyptian side would be comfortable with and Appiah faces perhaps his biggest test yet to provide a solution to what appears to be the weakest link in his team.
Only yesterday, former Black Stars player Yaw Preko also expressed his concern over the alarming rate of injuries and the prospect of Ghana going into the first leg without the first choice central defensive pair and the instability that will be brought to the back four.
The long absence of defender John Mensah meant that at different times Coach Appiah was compelled to experiment with John Boye-Jonathan Mensah; John Boye-Isaac Vorsah or John Boye-Jerry Akaminko.
As Preko, like many connoisseurs of the game, noted, a solid back four was vital to keep the experienced Egyptian forwards in check throughout both matches.
In Ghana’s last competitive game against Egypt in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations final in Angola, a moment of defensive lapse cost Milovan Rajevac’s team a fifth continental glory.
Fortunately, Appiah was deputy to the Serbian coach and is very much aware of the importance of defensive discipline against experienced sides like the Pharaohs.
It is, however, the Graphic Sports’ hope that in spite of Ghanaians’ trepidation and the red flags being raised over the Stars’ defensive woes, Coach Appiah and his technical team will find suitable replacements in the likes of Jerry Akaminko, Rashid Sumaila and Mohammed Awal to help put the Egyptians in check and maintain Ghana’s impressive defensive record in the qualifiers.
Source: Daily Graphic