Feature: Ghana coach Appiah must learn from Nigeria's Keshi at the 2014 World Cup

Writer Ed Dove argues that Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah should seek inspiration from Nigeria trainer Stephen Keshi when it comes to organising his star-studded squad at the 2014 World Cup.

Kwesi Appiah faces the huge problem of using all his players at the 2014 World Cup

The Black Stars of Ghana face a mammoth challenge at the World Cup in Brazil, as African sides have, in the past, been pooled in ‘Groups of Death’.

The Cote d’Ivoire have (twice) fallen at the first hurdle when drawn alongside teams of the calibre of Holland, Argentina and Serbia & Montenegro (2006) and Brazil and Portugal (2010), while Nigeria were also found wanting in 2002 when they found themselves pooled alongside Argentina, England and Sweden. The Super Eagles fell alongside the South Americans, having accumulated only one point from their opening three games.This summer, the Black Stars have, arguably, a more daunting task than Africa has ever faced before, as they are placed in the ominous Group G, alongside Germany, Portugal and the United States.

Is this the hardest group Africa has ever faced?

Quite possibly. Few would fancy the Black Stars to oust either a Germany side featuring the likes of Mario Gotze, Philipp Lahm and Thomas Muller, or a Portugal team spearheaded by the seemingly indestructible Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, there are, in principle, two main reasons for optimism on the part of the Black Stars.

First of all, reassurance comes from their recent World Cup record. In both 2006 and 2010 the West Africans were drawn into tough groups from which they weren’t expected to advance. On both occasions they did, moving into the knockout stages after some hard-fought battles against more illustrious and more experienced opposition.

Secondly, hopefulness can be found in the squad’s superb roster of players. The likes of Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien have won the highest honours the European game has to honour, Andre Ayew and Kevin-Prince Boateng are playing for big clubs in major leagues, while the phenomenon that is Kwadwo Asamoah surely ranks among (or perhaps just behind) the world’s finest midfielders.

Add to this collection the likes of Majeed Waris and Jordan Ayew — both of whom are enjoying excellent ends to the season — as well as the talismanic figure that is Asamoah Gyan, and Ghana look unlikely to crumble under the pressure of Group G, nor wilt when the major tests (and the big names) come their way.

I fear, however, that despite boasting one of Africa’s strongest roster of players — arguably the strongest — Ghana will be unable to escape from their taxing group, and it will be one of the continent’s other nations, probably Nigeria, or possibly Algeria or the Cote d’Ivoire who travel furthest in the competition.

While I have explained, briefly, in the past, how Stephen Keshi ought to take a leaf out of Volker Finke’s book when it comes to using the promise of a major tournament to recruit young players for the future (see Frank Bagnack and Jean Marie Dongou), Ghana boss Kwesi Appiah could do well to seek inspiration from the Big Boss when it comes to organising his options.

Keshi’s approach is a risky one.

The national boss realised the importance of the team ethic and a united camp, and sacrificed the underachieving big names to recruit a squad packed with the young and the inexperienced, the domestic-based and the hungry.

It could easily have backfired.

If the Super Eagles had fallen out of the Cup of Nations at the opening stage, as could feasibly have been the case considering our turgid early showings, then Keshi would have been lambasted for ignoring the likes of Taye Taiwo and Obafemi Martins.

Just look at how the cries for ‘The Saviour’ Peter Odemwingie have increased after a handful of impotent attacking displays.

It’s interesting to imagine how Keshi’s decision-making would be were he in the Ghana hotseat instead of Appiah.

Writer Ed Dove argues that Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah should seek inspiration from Nigeria trainer Stephen Keshi when it comes to organising his star-studded squad at the 2014 World Cup.

Keshi helped Nigeria to win the AFCON title with his astute way of dealing with talents in his squad

Would the ageing, injury-ravaged Michael Essien have been greeted with open arms when he declared his desire to return in time for the Mondial? Would the capricious Kevin-Prince Boateng have been shoehorned back into the squad so readily? And would it be a similar case of ‘Forgive and Forget’ with the Ayew brothers?

Appiah’s decision to recall — en masse —Ghana’s big name players is in direct contrast to Keshi’s approach.

It is, perhaps, the easy option. If Ghana fail with Mohammed Rabiu and Afriyie Acquah in the midfield — the calls for Essien and Prince would become overwhelming. If, however, they fail with the Milan man and the Schalke star, then at least Appiah can’t be accused of neglect.

Or can he?

In turning to the star players, Appiah risks destabilising the side. Far from fostering a selfless ethic and a team determined to fight for one another, the manager has created a climate of individualism.

The likes of Wakaso Mubarak — who proved himself to be a big game player at the AFCON — and Christian Atsu — who offers the width and directness that none of Ghana’s other midfielders can — may well drop to the bench to make way for the big names. Both men found themselves out of the starting XI for Ghana’s play-off double-header against Egypt and risk a similar fate in Brazil.

So too Albert Adomah, he started three games at the Cup of Nations, don’t expect him to match that this summer.

At the centre of this tangle sits Kwadwo Asamoah, a midfielder surpassed only by Yaya Toure in the African game today.

The Juventus man ought to be the Black Stars’ heartbeat, their cornerstone and their touchpoint. Admittedly, he plays an effective role for his club side on the left, often in a midfielder/wing-back/full-back role, but within the context of the national side, Kojo should be at the centre of everything — figuratively as well as literally.

Knowing what Keshi has managed to draw out of John Obi Mikel — a player who once flattered to deceive for the Super Eagles — it’s frightening to imagine how he could have constructed a team around Asamoah.

Who knows how Appiah will choose to use his key talent this summer. One suspects he will continue to exploit the player’s versatility and push him out of and away from the central areas in order to accommodate the Essiens, Muntaris, Ayews and Princes of this world.

Asamoah is a superb player, so I fully expect that he will impress even as a left-back. But it’s not how it should be, it’s not how Ghana will get the most from their resources, and it’s not, one suspects, how Keshi would have done it.

Do you agree with the writer that Ghana coach Kwesi Appiag should follow in the way of Nigeria trainer Stephen Keshi? Make your views known in the box below:

READERS COMMENTS

  1. Ghanaman says:

    No he must not learn from Keshi. He followed a similar model in the African cup and it failed. Keshi was lucky and flopped at the confederations cup.

  2. sammy says:

    According to Austin Eguavon, Keshi is a risk taker and who knows what he want and how it plays out. I would advise Appiah not to take that kind risk because of the short period left for the world cup but should be ware of ‘big names’ that will not bring positive result. l strongly disagree with @Ghanaman comment that keshi was lucky to have won the nations cup and that’s the reason why he flopped at the confederations cup. l do believe that if keshi had had his first team at the confederations cup, it could have been a different ball game. it was a situation where he was left to use his team B as a result of injuries. It is ridiculous to say that he won the nations cup by a mere share luck from the first match to the final. If that’s the case, his name should then be change from keshi to LUCKY… hahahahahaha

  3. NANAO says:

    Maxwell Konadu beat Keshie during the Chan.

    Please if there is any learning to do it should be Keshie Learning from the Senior coach of ghana Kwasi Appiah.

  4. selfmade says:

    Nigeria won the afcon becasus most of the serious contenders were tired from tthe previous edition which Nigeria failed to appear!! Most the serious contenders were suffering from fatigues from thr previous tournament and didn’t have the strength, desire and fire power to compete at their optimum best!! Nigeria were lucky and this is just putting it mildly! Nigeria were disgraced at the confederation cup and is no secret that most African countries BOMB OUT in FIFA competitions and Brazil wld be no exception!! All the so called African contenders ll be blasted out in the FIRST ROUND including Nigeria! Finally essien is an exception case because the guy has been a gem and a marvel for Ghana ever since he returned from his injuries! The said Nigeria players were BUMS who cannot be compared to essien and besides those players has passed their prime long time!!

  5. Richie says:

    look what you Ghanaian are saying, thats why i detest you guys a lot, you see the truth but you will never admit, if not for the keeper we took along did you think you guys could have won? look at what you people played at the AFCON with bukina-faso beautiful rubbish and you have the guts to talk, let me tell you ghanians something…, you guys are just to proud and arrogant when it comes to seeing Nigeria, your football is dying and you dont believe in taking risk thats why you guys had to go call back your aging players filling there experience would count Lol. I sorry for una, you guys only play like the brazilian when una meet Nigeria but against other small countries in Africa, You guys are QUACK.

  6. selfmade says:

    @ Richie.. Nobody is jealouse of Nigeria but what we saying is nothing but the truth! The last edition of the Africa cup of nations was a joke and Nigeria won it simply becasus they had enough rest by failing to qualify to the 2012 edition! There is no way Nigeria would have beaten the Ivorian team of 2012 who had in their mix, prime players! The Ivorian team in south Africa was fatigued and had a lot of players who were reaching their prime! Of we know how the super eagles has performed abysmally during the past decade in the afcon and every avid observer of the African game ll tell u that Nigeria benefited a lot from fatigue of other serious contenders who participated in the 2012 edition! Nigeria won this cup due to lack of interest and competitiveness from the other contenders becasus is not easy to recover within a year to compete in another high level competition!! Yes I know Nigeria is a strong football nation but their 2013 afcon truimph is nothing than a fluke! Ghana, Zambia and I.coast were simply tired from the last edition and didn’t have the interest in south Africa and thats the truth!! The truth is one and it hurts!!

    • Fascomay1 says:

      @selfmade, just like your name depict, you have made yourself look silly, Ignorant and worst off you speak like a demented follow but just REMEMBER if you don’t appreciate someone success don’t expect yourself to succeed in your own endeavour dat Mr ”selfmade” is called a natural mistic law of karma

  7. mr zest says:

    Dis ghanians……ur use words like u dnt tink…..hw will a team play frm beginin till end nd u call it luck…nd hw wil…u compare essien to any nigeria player…….keshi tuk d risk cause he knws wat he wanted so fatigue is no excuse d oda countries would ave done same…if they so wantd to succed…dnt give excuse 4 failure.

  8. selfmade says:

    @ fascomay… U are a big Nigerian idiot.. Counter me with solid facts and stop your stupid,useless rantings! If u have any common sense, u ll counter me or convince me otherwise but because u have a shallow mind which has been FUCKED TOP by EXCESS GENERATOR FUMES from bokom land, u can’t and even if we add your irresponsible father to this debate, the same stupidity ll come from u both!! Stupid Nigerian idiot!! Your village name portray u as a rather dementia bokom haramist who has abused all the hallucinogenic DRUGS making u think UPSIDE DOWN with your damaged bokom brains!! Hahahaaa… Bloody swine, GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE… Kwasia biba!!

  9. I personally don’t think so what does keshi know and coach Appiah doesn’t know