By Ameenu Shardow, follow on Twitter @alooameenu
Ghana improved its performance in 2013 with a 62.5 percent success rate after winning 10 games, drawing two and losing four in the 16 matches played in the year under review.
The Black Stars had dropped to a 50 percent success rate in 2012 with coach Akwasi Appiah presumably still finding his feet having been appointed the boss following the departure of Serbian trainer Goran Stevanovic.
The Black Stars under coach Appiah finished the year with a goal difference of +20 having scored 38 goals and conceded 18 – with Asamoah Gyan in particular in tip top form.
GHANAsoccernet.com looks back at the performance of the Black Stars in 2013 – pinpointing the key and low moments in the year under review.
Ghana 3-0 Egypt (January 10, 2013) – International Friendly (Abu Dhabi)
Ghana started 2013 in explosive fashion – smashing Egypt 3-0 in a pre-Nations Cup warm up match played in Abu Dhabi.
Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu opened the scoring which was later complemented with goals from Richmond Boakye-Yiadom and Asamoah Gyan.
It was a mere friendly but Ghana had succeeded in recording its biggest win over the North African giants not knowing there was even more to come later on in the year when both sides clashed horns again with even more at stake.
Ghana 4-2 Tunisia (January 13, 2013) – International Friendly (Abu Dhabi)
Ghana continued with its impressive winning ways with another rout over a north African opposition in Tunisia but the Black Stars were made to work for the flattering win.
Kwesi Appiah’s side were two goals down by halftime – prompting changes in personnel and tactics in an attempt to just save face. It however turned out even better.
John Boye, Mubarak Wakaso, Asamoah Gyan and a debut Ghana goal for Albert Adomah completed a magical comeback which got everyone buzzing ahead of the 2013 Nations Cup staged in South Africa.
Ghana 2-2 DR Congo (January 20, 2013) – Africa Cup of Nations (Port Elizabeth)
Ghana uncharacteristically threw away a two goal lead to draw 2-2 with DR Congo – led by ex Black Stars coach Claude Leroy – in the opening group game of the Nations Cup.
Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu had given Ghana the lead – finishing off a fluid attack. Kwadwo Asamoah then scored the second with a thumping header early in the second half.
But the Congolese struck back through Tresor Mputu and then pulled even with a well-converted spot kick by Dieumerci Mbokani given away by Jerry Akaminko.
The tournament had kicked off without goals and the fans were well entertained by the wonderful football exhibited by both teams. The draw however felt like a defeat to Ghana having thrown away a two-goal lead when in fact we should have won by 5 or even more.
Ghana 1-0 Mali (January 24, 2013) – Africa Cup of Nations (Port Elizabeth)
The Black Stars however got the much-needed win with a hard fought 1-0 win over West African neighbours Mali.
Mubarak Wakaso – Ghana’s set piece specialist in the tournament – scored from the spot to give Ghana a first half lead which was well protected to earn the win.
Ghana 3-0 Niger (January 28, 2013) – Africa Cup of Nations (Port Elizabeth)
The Black Stars were getting better by the day and it manifested in a much more impressive 3-0 win over Niger with Asamoah Gyan scoring his first in the competition. The celebration to match was as if he was telling his growing critics to just shut up.
His opening strike plus one each from Christian Atsu (a well taken goal – full of composure) and John Boye saw Ghana coast into the quarter finals as group winners.
Ghana 2-0 Cape Verde (February 2, 2013) – Africa Cup of Nations (Port Elizabeth)
Ghana met its toughest challenge thus far in the competition in lowly Cape Verde. The islanders were gradually emerging as an African powerhouse on the blind side of many and at least deserved a goal in the 2-0 defeat in the quarter finals.
It was a game to remember for goalkeeper Fatau Dauda who went into the competition as third-choice goalkeeper but ensured he remained the preferred choice ahead of Adam Kwarasey.
Wakso scored through the spot again. The then-Espanyold midfielder then struck very late in the game with a long range directed shot into a gaping net.
Cape Verde had committed virtually everybody including their goalkeeper into the Ghana half in desperate search of the equalizer that never came. From a set piece, Ghana broke quickly and Wakaso was fed through on goal at the centre line, he didn’t miss.
Ghana 1-1 Burkina Faso (2-3 on penalties) (February 6, 2013) – Africa Cup of Nations (Nelspruit)
Cape Verde though defeated had apparently taken so much from the Black Stars by the time they lined up against Burkina Faso on a very unattractive pitch in Nelspruit.
The Black Stars never got the opportunity to train on the dodgy pitch before the semi final game but the team officials insisted it was just fine.
A big mistake considering Burkina Faso had been playing on the awful pitch throughout the group phase. They were more accustomed to the ground.
There was a significant amount of confidence ahead of the game and the Vice President – Amissah Arthur – was around to inspire the boys to see the job through in making the finals.
The President – John Mahama – was scheduled to also arrive to see the finals once the Black Stars qualified. This plan backfired.
The team was all of the sudden under immense pressure and despite a controlled start against Burkina Faso; the game always looked to be running away from the Black Stars.
Ghana deservedly took the lead again from a Mubarak Wakaso spot kick after Christian Atsu has been felled in the area.
Ghana should have scored more moments later as they appeared on song but was to a diminishing rate.
Captain Asamoah Gyan missed a glorious chance and boy did we pay the price for our profligacy.
Aristide Bance equalized as Jonathan Pitroipa run riot on the wings. He was unjustifiably sent off but then Ghana was done.
The game eventually went into a shoot out after a tensed extra time.
The Black Stars could only convert two – with Isaac Vorsah, Emmanuel Clottey and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu all missing their kicks. The dream of ending an over three decade wait for an African title was once more again over.
Mali 3-1 Ghana (February 9, 2013) – Africa Cup of Nations (Port Elizabeth)
Just like a year before in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, the Black Stars never managed to pick themselves up from a crashing semi final defeat and again lost to Mali in the third-place playoff – the same side they had beaten 1-0 in the group stage.
Mali were worse of coming into the game. They had been hammered by Nigeria 4-1 in the semi final but they emerged more determined to save some pride.
Mahamadou Samassa and Seidu Keita raced Mali into a two-goal lead before Kwadwo Asamoah scored a consolation in the 81st minute.
Wakaso – who had been perfect for Ghana from the spot throughout the competition – had earlier missed a penalty kick.
Then Sigmary Diarra put the result beyound doubt with an injury time goal to help his side win bronze. Ghana returned with nothing.
Meanwhile Nigeria had beaten Burkina Faso 1-0 in a very dull final to win the tournament.
Coach Akwasi Appiah came under intense pressure from the disappointed Ghanian football public.
Many asked for his head and in fact some powerful member within the Ghana FA and the Sports Ministry felt he must go.
Appiah had made some very silly mistakes during the tournament.
The genesis of some of his problems was right from his selection of players and the way he played the game throughout the tournament.
The Black Stars never overly impressed even though some impressive score lines were recorded [here I am referring to the win over Niger].
But just like a year before, I had always felt that sacking the coach was never the way forward.
He had to learn from his mistakes to ensure we were much stronger the next time we came to the Nations Cup.
That thought was never heeded to after the 2012 Nations Cup as Goran Stevanovic was given the boot but thankfully this time around, Appiah was given the backing to stay. And he improved.
Ghana 4-0 Sudan (March 24, 2013) – 2014 World Cup qualifier (Kumasi)
The Black Stars had to win back some love the next time they lined up against Sudan in the aftermath of the disappointing Nations Cup campaign.
Ghana was already playing catch up in Group D to rivals Zambia and needed a win at all cost at home to Sudan.
They delivered. A memorable 4-0 win with goals from Asamoah Gyan, Mubarak Wakaso, Abdul Majeed Waris and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu to record.
The game will be best remembered as the one which finally sealed Waris’ name as someone who needed to play in the side at all times. He was just fantastic and he scored his debut Ghana goal to cap off months of intense work.
Sudan 1-3 Ghana (June 6, 2013) – 2014 World Cup qualifier (Omdurman)
Ghana then produced perhaps the most important result in the qualifiers with an impressive 3-1 away win over Sudan. The Black Stars played most of the game a man down but captain Asamoah Gyan was in inspired form.
He opened the scoring with a close range finish after which Richard Kissi-Boateng was sent off after giving away a penalty which was converted by Mudathir Al Tahir.
Gyan however returned to restore Ghana’s lead with a thumping header before Sulley Muntari scored straight from a corner kick to hand Ghana the priceless win.
I was celebrating the win not knowing my dad was indoors very ill. He passed on three days later and even in sorrow I always kept my eye on another important fixture to come a week later.
Lesotho 0-2 Ghana (June 16, 2013) – 2014 World Cup qualifier (Maseru)
Ghana took charge of Group D with another impressive 2-0 win over Lesotho at their own backyard. John Boye scored the opener and Asamoah Gyan finished it off.
Meanwhile Zambia had dropped vital points at home by drawing 1-1 with Sudan – giving Ghana the chance to jump into the driving seat with a one-point lead ahead of the highly expected clash in Kumasi.
The Black Stars however returned to their team hotel to find out some goods had been stolen by a thief who was later on caught on camera.
Whatever happened to that investigation, and whether he was apprehended, I don’t know.
Turkey 2-2 Ghana (August 8, 2013) – International friendly (Istanbul)
Asamoah Gyan came off the bench to score two smashing goals to earn a draw for Ghana.
Turkey had struck twice within the first 28 minutes through Buruk Yilmaz and Umut Bulut.
Ghana was in dire need of something special and on came Asamoah Gyan for Dominic Adiyiah. It was simply magical, the rest they say is history.
Ghana 2- 1 Zambia (September 9, 2013) – 2014 World Cup qualifier (Kumasi)
The Black Stars had to wait over a year to exact revenge on the Chipolopolo for ending Ghana’s Nations Cup dreams in 2012 – when they went on to win it for the first time.
The Zambians had also beaten Ghana later on that year in the World Cup qualifiers in Ndola. There was therefore no love lost between the sides.
Zambia however shot themselves in the foot with their bad preparations ahead of that epic game.
They only arrived in the country a day before the match and never trained on the Baba Yara Stadium pitch as scheduled.
The only got some few minutes to jog around the parking lot of the stadium surrounded by irate Ghanaian football fans.
In the end, they got what they deserved even though they played better especially in the second half.
Ghana was so motivated and determined to win this game in particular and had secured the return of Andre Ayew, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Michael Essien from their own induced international sabbatical.
Abdul Majeed Waris opened the scoring with a diving header from a seemingly meaningless cross from John Boye.
Kwado Asamoah then doubled the lead with a thunderbolt of a shot. Nathan Sinkala got one back for Zambia but it was too little too late by then.
Ghana this stormed into the World Cup playoffs where Egypt was waiting.
Japan 3-1 Ghana (June 10, 2013) – International friendly (Yokohama)
A game to quickly forget because the Black Stars were that bad. Most of its influential players that had secured progress in the World Cup qualifiers were however withdrawn, so it was mainly a game to assess the fringe players. They failed to cover themselves in glory.
Ghana however struck first through a Frank Acheampong strike in the 24th minute.
The Black Stars somehow managed to go into the halftime recess with their tails up but the second half was always to be tortuous.
Shinji Kagawa, Endo and Honda took turns to score to finish the game 3-1 to Japan.
Ghana 6-1 Egypt (October 15, 2013) – 2014 World Cup qualifier (Kumasi)
Easily the best Ghana game throughout the year. It was a ruthless Black Stars to a devastating effect against a no mean side than Egypt – record African Cup winners.
The Black Stars had started the year with a 3-0 win over the North African giants but no one imagined a later meeting with the stakes much higher would end up in such a demolition.
This was actually the result many expected against Zambia given what had transpired in the past year or so.
The goals kept coming and the Kumasi crowd were thoroughly entertained.
Asamoah Gyan started off the rout within just five minutes. The Black Stars captain had missed an absolute sitter 16 seconds into the start but there was no missing this one.
He took a pass into his stride and struck beautifully from the edge of the box to give Ghana the desired flying start.
Wael Gomaa was then forced to accidentally tap into his own net after Michael Essien had beaten; I think three defenders like a ‘giant Messi’.
Mohammed Abourtika helped his side back into the game from the spot after Rashid Sumaila had fouled in the box.
But Majeed Waris made it 3-1 by halftime. The second half to be even more magical.
Asamoah Gyan scored his second, Sulley Muntari converted a penalty and Christian Atsu scored the pick of the pile.
There could have even be a seventh, as Agyemang-Badu’s pile driver was parried away by a substitute goalkeeper.
Ghana was through to another World Cup even before the second leg was played. The Egyptians new that. It only had to be made official in Cairo.
Egypt 2-1 Ghana (November 19, 2013) – 2014 World Cup qualifier (Cairo)
There was so much talk about the safety of Cairo for the second leg match following weeks of political and civil unrest.
But the Black Stars were treated so comfortably that they almost (not literally) gave up a five-goal advantage.
The stadium was buzzing full of defiant Egyptian supporters. They scored early through Amr Zaki and kept pushing for more.
They just couldn’t break Ghana down.
They scored again but very late only to see them suffer the sucker punch of conceding minutes later through Kevin-Prince Boateng – who was playing his first game for Ghana in almost three years.
Alas, Ghana qualified to the 2014 World Cup at the expense of Egypt who prior to the ultimate tie had not lost a game.