A new inexperienced team or an exciting young team that can shock the world? The case of Ghana as the lowest-ranked team in the World Cup per the last Coca-Cola FIFA Rankings. Ghana has been drawn in Group H with Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay. The West African nation has seen loads of change in personnel as well as coaches in the lead-up to this World Cup.
C.K. Akunoor was at the helm until he was sacked for bad results and replaced with Milovan Rajevac who was at the helm in Ghana’s best showing ever at the World Cup in 2010, with the Serbian lasting just four months before getting sacked after Ghana finished bottom of their AFCON group behind Morocco, Gabon and Comoros with 1 point from three games and being replaced by Otto Addo.
The Ghanaians boast of a young exciting squad, one that’s dynamic enough to play in myriad formation variations. The Black Stars however had an inconsistent qualifying round and the last AFCON was nothing to write home about. Ghana went through the group qualifying round on goal difference, edging South Africa and after a scrappy AFCON, managed to get the ticket ahead of the Nigerians in a final eliminator on goal difference.
The Ghana team feels like a club with a lot of debutants and players who have just joined the team in recent months; Antoine’s Semenyo, Inaki Williams, Tariq Lamptey and Mohammed Salisu are notable mentions while there is still a possibility of seeing Callum Hudson Odoi in Ghana colors at the World Cup. With a blend of experienced and young players, the Ghana side looks like a team that can cause a surprise.
Under Otto Addo, Ghana has gone into games with different formations, making in-game changes, especially in the game with Nigeria, where he started in a 4-3-3 with Jojo Wollacott in goal and a back four of Denis Odoi, Daniel Amartey, Alexander Djiku and Gideon Mensah with Iddrisu Baba, Mohammed Kudus and Thomas Partey in midfield and an attack of Jordan Ayew, Felix Afena Gyan and Abdul Fatawu Ishahaku, as the two West African sides drew 0-0 in Kumasi, Ghana.
While in the return leg in Nigeria he made second-half changes with Gideon Mensah being moved out of left back and into a back three, with Oddo making a triple halftime substitution with Andy Yiadom, Elisha Owusu and Daniel Kofi-Kyereh coming on for Fatawu, Owusu, Baba as Ghana held on for a 1-1 draw in Abuja, Nigeria to secure World Cup qualification.
The additions of new players such as Lamptey and Iñaki allows Oddo the option to explore new shapes and structures on and off the ball, with Lamptey capable of operating as a right-sided wingback and a right back and providing competition for Odoi, who himself has had some stints in midfield as well as right back. The Black Stars could boast even more versatility as there are reports of the return of Jeffery Schlupp to the team, a player seen to excel in multiple formations at club level for Crystal Palace.
While Ghana is the lowest-ranked side in the lead-up to the World Cup, their new additions have provided Oddo with a lot of opportunities in a group that is seen as one of the most difficult — Uruguay, South Korea and Portugal. The challenge would be how Oddo can blend the new faces in the wealth of experience players like Andre Ayew and Thomas Partey boast, but it’s a challenge that he will be relishing as he looks to lead Ghana in their first World Cup in eight years.
By: Fiiifi Manfred / @thefiifimanfred
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / @GabFoligno – Robin Jones / Getty Images