2014 World Cup: Ghana's Asamoah seeks to bury memory of 2010 heartbreak
If the last World Cup holds only memories of heartbreak for Ghana’s Kwadwo Asamoah, this time round he is stronger, wiser and could be the key player if the Black Stars are to make good on their frustrated ambitions.
Asamoah played in the quarter-final against Uruguay in Johannesburg in 2010 when a Luis Suarez goal-line handball, a missed penalty by team mate Asamoah Gyan and a defeat in the subsequent penalty shoutout denied the Black Stars the honour of becoming the first African side to reach the semi-finals.
Since then the versatile midfielder, nicknamed Kojo, has moved to Italian club Juventus and his superb form this season helped Juve to clinch a third successive Serie A title.
He also played a leading role in helping Ghana qualify for Brazil. But he will need to be at his best there – Ghana are in a tough Group G, facing Germany, Portugal and the United States.
“We’re confident that we’ll be able to give a good account of ourselves,” Asamoah told Reuters in an e-mail interview a month ahead of the tournament.
“We’re in a tough group, there’s no denying that, but we go into the competition following a strong qualifying campaign in which we won five out of six games,” he added.
“It’s our third consecutive appearance in the World Cup finals, we hope to have a long run and we’ll be doing all we possibly can to make that happen.
“In addition, even more Ghanaians are now playing in Europe’s top five leagues – this international experience will serve us in good stead.”
The Accra-born Asamoah is already a veteran international at the age of 25, having made his debut at 17 in 2006. He now has 59 caps, scoring four times, for the Black Stars and was lauded as Ghana Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
First spotted playing for Accra side Kaaseman at 17, he joined Liberty Professionals then moved to the Swiss side Bellinzona when he was still only 19. He then moved to Italy’s Udinese and was signed up by Juventus in 2012.
Since then he has flourished, helping Juve win the Italian league in 2012-13 and Cup in 2012 and 2013 before this year’s honours.
Manager Antonio Conte recently described him as “irreplaceable” and he has just signed a new four-year contract with them.
For Juventus, he has dropped back to play at left back, though he still pushes forward to score goals – a stunning strike against Fiorentina in March being a fine example.
He plays in a more central role for Ghana, linking the midfield and attack, and has grown into the team’s mastermind. He is aware that if Ghana are to banish the memory of 2010, a lot of it will be down to him.
He believes the Black Stars have put their disappointing exit from the 2010 World Cup firmly behind them and can draw on that experience to emerge from their group. But it was heartbreaking to lose in such a way, he conceded
“We thought we played well and had done enough to reach the semi-finals. To come that close to making history and then see it slip away is something you don’t easily forget,” he said.
“However, we’ve moved on and taken both the positives and negatives of the last campaign on board – and now we’re fully determined to put our experience to good use in Brazil.”
“If you enter any competition your ambition has to be to win it, and to do so you need to face strong teams at some stage. We have shown in the past that we can perform when others may have written us off – and we’re confident we can do that again.”