Just 12 years ago, Ghana came within centimeters of a World Cup semi-final after Luis Suarez handled the ball. But it didn’t happen and from there, everything has been downhill – leaving without a win four years later, not even qualifying for World Cup 2018, and in January, a group stage exit at the Africa Cup of Nations after finishing empty-handed in both 2017 and 2019 too.
Maybe this World Cup can be a turning point. They had a few close calls in qualifying, first edging out South Africa by a narrow margin, before meeting Nigeria in the decider and winning on away goals after drawing both games. They will arrive in Qatar as the lowest-ranked side by FIFA, so they have nothing to fear.
How do they play?
Head coach Otto Addo was appointed after the Cup of Nations and had just six weeks to prepare for Nigeria, but managed admirably. The 2006 World Cup veteran spent his playing career in Germany and has been an inspired student of the game, going from assistant to head scout to talent coach in both Germany and Ghana. His tactical nous shouldn’t be questioned.
From the nine matches under Addo, it seems the team will be set up in either a 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3 formation. Midfield will be key and they can surely score, but it remains to be seen how will Ghana’s defense cope with mighty Portugal, sharp Uruguay, and well-drilled South Korea.
Why they can win?
Ghana has nothing to lose. With recent results not instilling much confidence, they can go out without expectations and try to wash away the humiliation still looming from January. There have been some good additions to a woeful defense with Brighton right-back Tariq Lamptey and Southampton center-back Mohammed Salisu only recently receiving green light to represent the Black Stars.
Why they can lose?
Ghana has taken part in 13 games this year, winning just two. How far can a team go in a World Cup if it has only beaten Madagascar and Nicaragua previously? These same players lost to the Comoros just 10 months ago and have been soundly beaten by both Japan and Brazil.
The leading stars
The Ayew brothers are still there, with 32-year-old Andre now playing club football in Qatar and 31-year-old Jordan still plying his trade in the Premier League with Crystal Palace. Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey will have a crucial role as well.
The fresh faces
22-year-old Mohammed Kudus has been a revelation for Ajax Amsterdam this season, while another newcomer attracts attention – Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao. The 28-year-old striker represented Spain once in 2016 but changed sides this summer to play for his parents’ country of birth. He has been ever-present for Bilbao, scoring roughly a goal every four games.