Today we profile, in reverse alphabetical order, the nineteenth team of 32 which qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar—Ghana.
The Black Stars are going to be participating in their fourth World Cup ever. They made it in 2006 (exited in Round of 16), 2010 (made it to the quarterfinals), and 2014 (exited at the Group Stage), missed 2018, and are back to play in Qatar this year. In 2010, in their group, Ghana lost 0-1 to Germany, Defeated Serbia 1-0, and drew 1-1 with Australia to progress. Then they met the USA and beat them 2-1 on Asamoah Gyan’s 90+3-minute goal.
Then, in the 2010 quarterfinals, they lost that infamous match against Uruguay. Ghana scored first in first-half stoppage time via Sulley Muntari only to have Diego Forlan tie at the 54th minute with a wonderful free kick. The teams went to extra time. As extra time was expiring, Luis Suarez made a hand-save penalty (earning a red card at the 120th minute) only to have Asamoah Gyan kick the ball into the crossbar and over. The teams went on to a penalty shootout and Uruguay came out the winner 4-2 with two Fernando Muslera saves. The rematch between the two countries in Group H this year will be one of the cup’s highlights.
Placed in Group H with Portugal, Uruguay, and South Korea, the Ghanaians feel they have a shot at progressing. But if all teams are playing at their best, Portugal and Uruguay should progress and in that order. Ghana’s home kit is all whites with red, green, and red highlights on the sleeves and collars and a black star on the center of the chest; their away kit is all red with a square in the middle depicting the nation’s flag.
Ghana is a country in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea which covers an area of 92,000 square miles and encompasses coastal savannahs to tropical rainforests with a tropical climate and two seasons wet and dry. The nation’s history dates to the 11th Century Bono state. Ghana was part of the United Kingdom until it became a unitary presidential republic in 1960. The country has a population of 31M, its largest ethnic groups are the Akans 46% and Mole-Dagbon 18.5%, and 71% of the population are Christian. There are various recognized national languages, but English is the official one. Ghana’s GDP is $226B, and its HDI score is 0.611 (medium). One of Ghana’s most recognized cultural symbols is their adinkra printing which uses symbols that represent concepts. These symbols are then hand-printed and hand-embroidered into clothing, but the symbols are also used in architecture and to decorate walls. Watch the Ghanaian fans in Qatar and notice their colorful garb, then look closer and see the symbols they are wearing.
Squad (which may change before the cup given injuries, recent form, and coaching choices—teams mentioned are subject to change given transfers): Goalkeepers— Richard Ofori (Orlando Pirates), Joe Wollacott (Swindon), and Abdul Manaf Nurudeen (Eupen); Defenders—Denis Odoi (Club Brugge), Tariq Lamptey (Brighton), Alidu Seidu (Clermont), Joseph Aidoo (Celta Vigo), Gideon Mensah (Bordeaux), Daniel Amartey (Leicester), Alexander Djiku (Strasbourg), Abdul-Rahman Baba (Reading), Mohammed Salisu (Southampton), and Stephan Ambrosius (Karlsruher); Midfielders—Thomas Partey (Arsenal), Iddrisu Baba (Real Mallorca), Elisha Owusu (Gent), Daniel-Kofi Kyereh (St Pauli), Mohammed Kudus (Ajax), Andre Ayew (Al Saad), Osman Bukari (Nantes), Kamaldeen Sulemana (Rennes), Daniel Afriyie Barnieh (Hearts of Oak), Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer (Hamburg), and Antoine Semenyo (Bristol City); Strikers—Abdul Fatawu Issahaku (Sporting CP), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace), Felix Afena-Gyan (Roma), Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao), and Benjamin Tetteh (Hull City).
Path to Qatar
Ghana were seeded into the Second Round of CAF qualifying for the World Cup and were placed in Group G with South Africa, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. Ghana ended up with the same number of points and goal differential as South Africa, so most goals scored became the tiebreaker and the Black Stars scored one more goal and thus progressed. In the Third Round, Ghana were paired with Nigeria for a home and away tie to determine who went to Qatar. The teams drew both games but because Ghana drew 1-1 away and 0-0 at home the “away goals” rule qualified them for Qatar.
Ghana has played a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-3 and the latter seems the more natural, given the team’s strength is their midfield. This African team has a number of good players, and they are mostly young. Their aging roster members are veterans of previous World Cups which will provide guidance and leadership on the field to what is mostly an unproven bunch. But if their friendly losses against Qatar (1-2) in August and Brazil (0-3) earlier this month are any indication they will have a hard time against their group opponents.
The team has quite a few good players from midfielders Idrissu Baba (Real Mallorca), Thomas Partey (Arsenal), and Mohammed Kudus (Ajax), to strikers such as Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams, and Roma’s Felix Afena-Gyan. Williams chose to play for Ghana as there was little room for him in the Spanish National Team and his speed and scoring are just what the Ghanaians needed.
Group and Tourney Prospects
Though Ghana play well, the team is in a group with two overwhelming favorites in Portugal and Uruguay and a strong South Korean team as spoilers. Yes, it is true anything can happen in soccer, and, for example, there will be personal emotions when the Africans and South Americans meet, Ghana will likely depart at the group stage.
Photo: Thomas Partey – Shutterstock ID 1462613606, by Jorge Gonzalez Moreno