Feature: Ghana must temper 2014 World Cup expectations

Ghana

Ghana

It has become a popular and everyday national anthem. Ghana is capable of winning the World Cup, according the staunch believers.

The chief vocalist of that chorus has been the Ghana Football Association president Kwesi Nyantekyie who has not lost any opportunity to remind us that the Black Stars are capable of “causing a surprise” in Brazil. And that surprise includes winning it.

Then there is the Minister of Youth and Sports Elvis Afriyie Ankrah. The minister is an energetic, vibrant young man.

He leads the chants before games, he fires the players up in dressing rooms and has been seen leading the celebratory chants sometimes.

It is easy to sense the passion Ankrah has ahead of the World Cup and easy to discern Nyantekyie’s belief in the side. Reality though suggests a lot of that is fuelled by a desire to say the right things in public. Truth is this Black Stars team will not win the World Cup in Brazil.

When I wrote, amidst all the patronizing talk of this is Africa’s time before the last tournament, that there was no side on the continent capable of winning the World Cup, I was called a “typical Ghanaian pessimist”. That attitude of belief, of saying the right things and of being on the right side of public opinion is in.

“The difference between the winner and the rest is simple: preparation and practice. There is no magic, there is not any weird formula – a little bit of luck comes into it but you create your own luck through preparation. It is possible for an African country to win the World Cup – the sky is the limit,” the Minister says.

Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah has been more cautious. He speaks of a Ghana team that is capable of going one step better. And one step better will be reaching the semi finals of the competition.

“When I look at our mix of youth and experience, the hunger of this team, I feel we can do something special in Brazil,” he says. “I have always been confident that we can do better than we did in South Africa if we get it right.”

Appiah’s belief is grounded in a squad oozing with experience. There will be three members in his world cup squad who played in Ghana’s first world cup in Germany. Michael Essien, Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari have seen it all at international level.

And then there is a second group of players who were smashingly brilliant for Ghana at the 2010 edition. That group includes Kevin-Prince Boateng, Dede Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah and Samuel Inkoom.

There is also a third group of talented youngsters whose progress in recent years fill Appiah with incredible hope. Christian Atsu is thriving at Vittese Arnheim where he is on loan from Chelsea.

Majeed Warris has taken to international football like a duck to water. Rabiu Mohammed when he is fit puts in incredible work in midfield. All the major actors will go to Brazil having had some top level football experience before.

The belief is that the mix of youth and experience is what will see Ghana through. But the skeptics, and there are many of them, laugh at that claim. They say getting out of a group with Portugal, Germany and USA will be “miraculous”.

While that may thread the line of absurd, it paints a good picture of the size of the task facing Ghana. Germany are masters at this level and with a crop of players generally recognized as some of the best in the world. Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Mario Goetze are all world class talent. With Germany’s famous technical organization and prowess to boot, the widely accepted wisdom is that they are odds on favourites in that group.

Then Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese have been derided as a one man team but it has worked for them given the Real Madrid star’s phenomenal ability to decide games on his own at any level. And then there is the USA, beaten twice by Ghana but who with Jurgen Klinsman now in charge look a completely less conquerable side.

While it is a tough, tough group, those who are instantly dismissive of Ghana’s chances to be able to get out of the group demonstrate at least from the Ghanaian perspective a poor sense of history. In two previous World Cups, Ghana was not expected to qualify, let alone do well. In both, the Black Stars were Africa’s best team at the tournament.

In 2006, Ghana was in the same group with eventual winners Italy, Czech Republic and USA. All three were top ten ranked sides in world football at the time.

Many Ghanaian fans and journalists, myself included travelled to the tournament with our return flights fixed for the day after the final group game. That belief was strengthened even further after the first loss to Italy.

Then against Czech Republic who were flavor of the moment the Black Stars produced their best moment in world cup history, winning 2-0. A second round berth and a 0-3 loss to Brazil did not douse the amazing sense of pride that came with.

Four years later in South Africa, Serbia had a wonderful European campaign and were mentioned in several outlets as dark horses. Ghana beat them and went all the way to the quarter finals before losing on penalties.

That is why the likes of Asamoah Gyan, a hero and villain in Ghana’s brief World Cup history chuckles when he is told “Ghana cannot get out of that group.” His response is “We heard that before. They even said we could not qualify for the tournament.”

Gyan, like many of his colleagues, feels grossly underestimated but is happy in the knowledge that in those situations, they have shown an ability to respond beautifully. And while that has never been in dispute, there is enough evidence to suggest winning will be a step too far.

Look closely at Ghana’s record. Against the A class nations the Black Stars have struggled. Germany, Italy and Brazil have all had comfortable wins. Ghana’s team while solid is one grossly lacking in an ability to win with trophies at stake.

This is a country still chasing a first Nations Cup title in 32 years, a country that in the last two African Nations Cup tournaments, have blown what were realistic chances of ending that trophy drought.

And for all that is said about the good talent level, it is a country over reliant on Gyan for goals at the international level. There simply isn’t enough depth and quality to win the World Cup.
It would be amazing if Ghana did. For journalists like me, it will present unprecedented opportunities, for the players it will elevate them to lifetime heroes. But it is a bridge too far in the purely football sense.

By Michael Oti Adjei

READERS COMMENTS

  1. Lmao!!! Ghanians are full of false hope, who tells u dat ghana can qualify from dat group??

  2. mukmin says:

    Quite pragmatic article. But I like the objectivity and confidence of Nantakyi and Ankrah and I wish it rubs off the players. Although winning the worldcup is a long shot I think going there with a belief of winning the tournament is the right attitude to have that’s a winning mentality that will get us far into the tournament. If we are going to go to this tournament without believing we can win it then we should stay at home. Our players and fa are overachievers that’s how we have been able to make progress at previous tournament. Although winning the worldcup is no easy feat since even countries like Netherland even with the likes of Crouyff, Van Bastan, Gullit and Coeman just to name a few have been the final twice but never lifted the cup so it will not be easy but it is not impossible however unlikely it is.

  3. Benito says:

    Very objective and a good read,let’s cautiously set our target.soccer can be very unpredictable.

  4. CEREBRAL says:

    @mukmin you make brilliant points. I am very glad that Nyantakyi and Ankrah are optimistic. I hope that optimism can rub off onto the players. There is too much time, effort, money and reputation at stake, that it is better to return with more victories than with heads down.

  5. Benny says:

    Why can’t Ghana win the World Cup.The only problem is AA who doesn’t seem to know what he is doing.If AA would eschew nepotism and favouritism and choose the right players who are active for their club ,l don’t see why we cannot win the world cup.It won’t be easy,but it is possible.

  6. selfmade says:

    If Ghana can come out of the group stage, then u have a chance but I still maintained that the WC is always for the BIG BOYS AND NOT UNDERDOGS and thats why is only Brazil, Argentina, Germany, italy, France,Britain and Uruguay that has ever won this glorious cup before and nothing is gonna change in Brazil!! There wouldn’t be any upsets in Brazil and one of these big boys ll finally nick the cup!

  7. aberico says:

    A very objective article frm the Sport analyst (Michael). But I think there is nothing wrong if a country’s FA sets a high goal to reach a world come. If u are a student n u set grade “A” for urself, chances are that ure likely to get the “A” becos he’ll do everything required to achieve that feat. And even if not, the possibility to get “B” which also very good is obtainable. But imagine a student who sets his target to get grade “F.” What happens to such a person? It means that person ll be far from achieving any grade which is beyond his own set-target. The best he can do is E which is below average. Ghana may not win the world cup, but setting a high goal is in the right direction because they will work towards it.

  8. Nigga says:

    LmaO! Ghana 2 wan win world cup?? Na wa O ! I hope una dream go come true… But una. Go grow bear bear Ooo !!

  9. Anoff says:

    Indeed Michael Oti must be comended for this indepth analysis and excellent master piece. However, he failed to touch on the fact that AA’s does not even belief in himself and is currently alleged considering hiring Milo on his technical team. For me I think that alone undermines the qualities of the coach and must be looked at very critically if we really want to go far in this tournament.

  10. A nicely written piece. Very mature and sensible. It’s true, we need to be real and eschew complacency. Our planning is faulty from the beginning. This underrating and underestimation of the US is simply stupid. I want to warn Ghana once again , complacency might be the bane of our 2014 WC. How on earth do you camp at your enemy’s backyard in such a major tournament? Mind you, they have a more experienced and seasoned technical team. See how they are planning to face Ghana. The last friendly they play b/f meeting Ghana is Nigeria – a country whose style of play and current form is not unlike ours. Whoever made the decision to camp the Black Stars in the US lacks an understanding of current football sense.

  11. kuukuphilly says:

    Kwasia journalist..