By Mohamed Al-Hendy, Kingfut.com
Ahead of Egypt’s first match in the play-off round of African World Cup qualifying vs Ghana, Egyptian writer Mohamed Al-Hendy of leading Egyptian football news website www.kingfut.com takes a look at the Ghana players Egypt should be most wary of.
It’s been discussed, anticipated and debated, but the final verdict is that Egypt will have to get past Ghana to get to Brazil 2014, and vice versa.
Of the five World Cup qualifying play-off match-ups, many have stated that Egypt vs. Ghana will be the most intense match-up of all, and why not; after all, the pair recently contested the Africa Cup of Nations final in 2010.
Egyptians will be hoping for the same result as last time, but it won’t be easy.
If Egypt is to experience success in its next two matches vs. Ghana, it will need to lock down most, if not all, of the following five players for Ghana:
1) Asamoah Gyan
Just four goals short of being his country’s all-time leading goal-scorer, Gyan is already a legend for Ghana at the age of 27, and their main weapon on offense. One would expect that playing in the UAE would soften Gyan’s game up and hurt his progression as a player, but he’s scored 10 international goals and around 60 club goals since moving from Sunderland. With an almost 2:1 game-to-goals ratio, Egypt must limit Gyan’s ability to threaten their goal if they wish to control the match-up.
2) Michael Essien
Luckily for Egypt, the Ghanaian vice-captain is not the player he once was; nevertheless, he remains a very important player for Ghana in midfield. He is no longer a major shooting threat from midfield, but he still remains as aggressive and hard-working as ever, capable of running up-and-down the field with great stamina.With his solid passing abilities, Egypt must find a player–someone like Mohamed El Nenny perhaps–to keep up with Essien and tire him out, or at least keep him from controlling the midfield.
3) Andre Ayew
It’s very surprising to see that Ayew has only scored four times in 45 matches for Ghana, given how big of a role he has played in his country’s offense since joining the national team. Nevertheless, three of those goals have been scored in big games; his first goal took Ghana to the finals of AFCON 2010, and his next two brought wins over Mali and Tunisia in AFCON 2012. Ayew’s pace, combined with his highly respectable dribbling abilities, ensure that he’ll create chances for Ghana against Egypt; the key for Egypt will be smothering those chances as much as possible and limiting the space Ayew has to run into.
4) Kwadwo Asamoah
Used as a left midfielder by Juventus and a central one by Ghana, Asamoah possesses a variety of skills that make him competitive in multiple positions. Like a couple of his teammates on this list, he has good pace, good dribbling, a decent shot from distance, solid passing, and great strength. You could say he’s a younger Michael Essien, which could mean trouble for Egypt if they have trouble shutting down the other players in Ghana’s midfield.
5) Kevin-Prince Boateng
Last, but not least, the x-factor. KPB is a great central midfielder, with excellent pedigree and highly respectable technical abilities, but his commitment to Ghana has always been tenuous at best. If he’s fit and motivated, he could partner with Asamoah and Essien to give Ghana one of the scariest midfields in the world. At 26, it remains to be seen if KPB has matured or still does not value international football as he should.
Altogether, Ghana has a team worthy of being feared, with multiple players plying their trade at the highest levels in Europe. Nevertheless, Egypt’s always been known for its team unity and ability to produce high quality players from its domestic league. The odds seem to be in Ghana’s favor, but we at KingFut will be hoping Egypt can pull off a small miracle and overcome Ghana’s group of well-trained individuals.