By Sriram Manoharan; thinkfootball.co.uk
Name: Ebenezer Assifuah
Height: 5 ft. 9 in.
Club: FC Sion
League Position: 6th
Club Goals(2013): 17 in 22 games
Ebenezer Assifuah-Inkoom is a 20 yr. old Ghanaian Striker for the Swiss Super League side FC Sion. He was awarded the Golden Boot at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 after scoring 6 goals in 5 games. He is a raw-power striker in the Samuel Eto’o mold and although his first touch isn’t perfect, he has ample strength and is deadly with his back to goal.
First touch & Ball control: 3/5
Although standing at 5 ft. 9 in., Assifuah is a bit more of a complete striker than Domininc Adiyah who made quite an impression at the same edition of the tournament in 2009 by scoring 8 goals and bagging both the Golden Ball and Shoe but sadly is now plying his trade in the doldrums of Ukrainian League. Assifuah is more of a number 9 who will bring his second striker into play by trapping long balls and holding off defenders with his back to goal.
And he seems to be someone who plays without fear, someone who is not intimidated by the opposition – a clear trait of a good striker. Grouped with Spain, France and the USA, Ghana qualified for the Round of 16 very much thanks to Assifuah’s two goals in their final group match victory against the States by 4-1. Against Chile in the Quarter Finals, Assifuah scored 2 goals, one in extra time right at the death with the clock showing 120 minutes, which gave them a 4-3 victory and a semi-final date with the eventual winners France, who were led by the excellent Paul Pogba.
Assifuah scored a screamer against the French in that semi-final, controlling the ball awkwardly at first but then beating 3 men and blasting a left footer past the hapless French keeper who didn’t move the proverbial muscle. Now, had he beaten 3 run of the mill players it would have been a good goal nonetheless but Assifuah shrugged off Pogba, then beat Kurt Zouma and Samuel Umiti – three beasts in blue. France won the match with a goal from Thauvin, the Marseille man, but Assifuah’s finishing prowess was there for all to see. He has scored against the States, Chile, France and Iraq.
Such potential rarely goes unnoticed and FC Sion came calling, soon after the U-20 WC finished in early July. He has played 22 games for them and scored 17 goals till date. He was also the top scorer at the 2013 African U-20 Championship, scoring in every group match.
One major strength of Assifuah is his jumping. To put it simply, if there is a high ball looped into the box, Assifuah 9 times out of 10 will leap up and control it. He is that good. For a guy who is not too tall, the leap he possesses is clearly superb. Here, we can see him beating Samuel Umiti – who is no mean muscleman himself – to an aerial ball. The next second, Umiti is left on the floor in a crumpled heap.
Similarly, for his cracker against the French, he shrugged off Paul Pobga before his goal.
What seperates Assifuah from other up and coming young strikers of his age is that not only is he consistent, powerful, good in the air and able to shoot with either foot, he is also an absolute live wire in the box, often needing only one chance to score. With his strength, awareness and finishing, I see a bit of Dwight Yorke, Samuel Eto’o and Louis Saha - all technically adept players with brutish strength and a good leap.
Here, against the USA, he moves down the left flank on the counter, aware that the American right back is nowhere in sight. Creating acres of space for himself, he receives the ball from the right, beats his man with a shift inside and blasts it to goal.
Against the Chileans, he gets the ball inside the area surrounded by red shirts, takes one touch to swivel his body and coolly slots it past the keeper.
A recurring feature of Assifuah’s game is the way he brings his wingers into play. One can see how he drops infield, gets the ball and holds off one or at times two players and then releases the ball excellently to the wing.
So much for his performances. Clearly, Assifuah’s strengths outnumber his weaknesses: Chest control, awesome finishing, jumping, powerful shooting, positioning, link-up play and a desire to get on the end of things – all qualities that outline his standing as a number 9. A key weakness is his first touch which he needs to improve greatly. Often times when he receives the ball in the area, he likes to shoot first without taking a touch. If he tries to take a touch, the defender forces him wide and closes down his angle to shoot, thus nullifying his threat. An excellent first touch would make Assifuah untouchable. He is also a poor crosser of the ball and if pushed out to the wing, he might be as effective. Adding that to his game will enable him to become a powerful alternative on the right, although his future is as a 9.
You only have to take one look at his U-20 highlights reel to get an idea of his potential and it is clear that he is one of the best prospects from Africa at the moment: