As the 2014 World Cup draws ever closer, football fans and pundits across the world will be keeping an eye on the selected squads who will play on the most prestigious stage in football.
Brazil 2014 is poised to be one of the best tournaments in modern history, with the best nations and players in the world set to take centre stage amidst a wonderful carnival atmosphere reverberating within each stadium and host city.
The South American countries, namely Brazil and Argentina, are widely predicted to be strong favourites alongside Germany and Spain, but the World Cup, as with every other major tournament, has a habit of throwing up surprises.
Ghana are among a selection of teams who are seen as World Cup dark horses as they have the quality and shock factor required to be a real danger for whoever they come up against.
Although the Africans have been drawn in an incredibly tough group, there are many reasons why Ghana canbe World Cup surprise packages.
Kweshi Appiah has the luxury of calling from the best generation of Ghanaian players who have made a real impact at domestic and international level in the 21st Century.
Brazil 2014 will be Ghana’s third consecutive appearance at the World Cup, with their wonderful performances in South Africa 2010 providing a platform to potentially build upon.
The painful manner in which they lost to Uruguay in the quarter-finals still rankles, but also provides a huge motivation for many of the key players who played that day to rewrite the many wrongs they feel denied them a place in history.
Asamoah Gyan, who missed the crucial injury-time penalty following Luis Suarez’s highly controversial handball on the line, will be a man on a mission as Ghana’s record goalscorer to lead the line and add to his 38 international goals.
The return of Michael Essien is a massive boost for Ghana, with the highly influential midfielder missing the 2010 World Cup due to an injury which derailed his career.
Essien looked back to his best during the qualifying play-off demolition of Egypt which bodes well – if he remains fit and injury-free.
The AC Milan star will be joined in midfield by Kwadwo Asamoah, Andre Ayew and Kevin-Prince Boateng, with all four providing dynamism, power and pace that could cause problems for any World Cup team to handle.
Ghana can also call upon two bright talents in the form of Jordan Ayew and Abdul Majeed Waris; both players have been in superb goal-scoring form for Sochaux and Valenciennes respectively in France, and offer lively options from the bench if Ghana find themselves in need of goals or fresh impetus in attack.
Ghana have already displayed their qualities at World Cup tournaments by defying all odds and progressing far in 2006 and 2010, with the latter ending in highly controversial and undeserved circumstances which was a sour end to their fairytale. Defeat to Uruguay also ended their chances of becoming the first African nation to qualify for the semi-finals.
Kwesi Appiah’s squad is packed with strength, pace and ability which can go far once again at a World Cup tournament, but being drawn in Group G alongside Germany, Portugal and the USA presents a big ask for Ghana to repeat their previous feats.
It is arguably the best and closest group to call, as any two can qualify for the second round but will have to be on top of their game to do so.
Facing a formidable Germany side and a Portugal team containing 2013 Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo may be a bridge too far for Ghana, but they will no doubt approach both games with no fear and will fancy their chances of causing a real upset.
The opening fixture against the USA will be crucial, with the Americans seeking revenge for defeats at the hands of Ghana at the 2006 and 2010 World Cup. More importantly, winning the first game will provide huge motivation and a psychological boost to Ghana which could signal the start of another against-the-odds World Cup fairytale.