Seismic revolution in the new look Black Stars. Such a long list of new call-ups with all the talk being dominated by the gaffer’s decision to drop some key players of old. Almost every department of the squad has been hit with the gaffer clearly demonstrating a new era and sending signals to the so-called untouchables in the squad.
Fatau Dauda and Razak Braimah have been mainstays in the squad since they broke into the team a couple of years ago. Dauda lost his way ahead of the Mundial in Brazil but strived to win back the heart of Appiah for the group games against the Germans and the Portuguese after first choice goalie Adam Kwarasey lost his spot under strange circumstances. Braimah on the other hand has struggled to win over many a Ghanaian fan with his performances and his comments prior to the semi-final game against Cameroon at the CAN 2017 clearly made him public enemy number one. Very difficult to say if the door has been eternally shut on these lads but what an opportunity it is for the new call ups. Bar Adam Kwarasey who is clearly the most experienced member of the list of goalies, Ofori, Felix Annan and Joseph Addo have all to play for should they be given the chance. Ofori has had his bow with various national teams over the years and was second choice goalie at CAN 2017. He would surely fancy his chances after starting the friendly against the Beninois on Thursday.
Felix Annan has demonstrated over the last few seasons that he is one of the most thoroughbred lads in the country, if not the best. His agility, command of his back four, his role as a first line of attack and his leadership qualities led to former Kotoko coach Lugarosic naming him captain in the absence of the injured Amos Frimpong. Joseph Addo has dislodged former national goalie Stephen Adams and is now first choice at Aduana Stars who have demonstrated a fantastic level of consistency funded by the deep pockets of the Dormaahene. I have had the opportunity of seeing him in a few games this season and he is surely one for the Stars. It is, therefore, not surprising that Aduana conceded the least number of goals in the first round (8). Goalkeepers’ trainer Richard Kinsgton has a lot on his hands to make a choice in here. I do not envy him at all.
It is an interesting mix in the defensive setup with a blend of new, youth and experience. Agbenyenu, Nicholas Opoku, Daniel Darkwa, and Samuel Sarfo are virtually new to the squad and with the traditional mainstays in there. Clearly, a case of a manager sending out clear signals to the entire defensive setup to up their game or lose their places. It could also be a case of looking a bit further into the future with entrants who could give the Stars another decade of quality football. A lot has been said of central defenders Boye and Mensah outliving their usefulness to the squad while question marks remain over the presence of Rashid Sumaila purely on the basis of where he plays. I do recall though that Sumaila and Akaminko were given a look in in the friendly international against the Dutch prior to the Mundial in Brazil and you have to say that they distinguished themselves very well. Akaminko has another brilliant opportunity to stake a claim in the squad. He has got to seize that opportunity.
Traditional names dominate the midfield setup but then again, a new generation of players would look to push these lads for a starting berth. Mohammed Abu has been tipped for a place in the squad while the likes of Sackey, Yaw Yeboah, Donyoh, and Thomas Agyepong have gatecrashed the squad purely on the performances at their respective clubs this season. Acquah, Partey, Ayew are mainstays while Ofori would count on his progression from the 2013 Satellites squad and decent outing in the third place game at the CAN in Gabon. It remains to be seen whether all these new call-ups would be given a fair chance of breaking into the squad. What I do know, however, is that Coach Appiah is never shy of giving players the opportunity as long as they demonstrate their prowess on the pitch. A case of Christian Atsu would long live on the memories of many a Ghanaian for years to come. This was a player stuck up in Portugal and virtually an unknown quantity but was still given an opportunity to prove himself and boy has he taken his chance. Winful Cobbinah has come in from nowhere and seems to be riding on the back of some very impressive performances. With the right attitude, he could be one to look at for some time to come. The established lads in this department look pretty settled for now but they would know that the omission of Badu and Wakaso is a strong signal that anyone of them has a fight on his hand to keep their places going forward.
I wish I could honestly see a lot more top strikers coming through, playing at a very high level and delivering consistently for club and country. Gyan has been extraordinary for the Stars over the years with an average of a goal per game. His critics have been at their loudest concerning where he has chosen to pursue his career the last seven years, playing in China and the UAE. Truth though is that when he has been in the national team, he has been our best bet for goals. Waris was turning out to be a fantastic complementary striker to his skipper but a run of injuries coupled with a loss of form has seen his performances going unnoticed. He has found a bit of rhythm at Lorient. 21 goals from 58 outings in the last two years seems to have got him believing again. He would be desperate to see Appiah give him some minutes. Jordan Ayew has been frustratingly inconsistent with the Stars. He has only had a single goal for the team in almost two years. He has struggled to do any better at Swansea and Aston Villa, scoring a meagre 10 goals in the last two seasons. Dwamena almost made the squad for the CAN on the back of his brilliant form at club level but was dropped on the back of some inexplicable reasons. He has another opportunity to make things happen.
It is clearly a new era for the Stars and an opportunity for every single Ghanaian player anywhere to demonstrate their abilities to the national selectors. Now is the hour. Mr Appiah, it is in your hands really.
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