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2014 World Cup: Why Kwadwo Asamoah possess a danger to Ghana's opponents in Brazil

Published on: 23 April 2014
Kwadwo Asamoah has been a key player for Juventus

Sports Illustrated's Jonathan Wilson profiles the undervalued, under-the-radar but versatile Juventus midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah who is on the cusp of winning his third Scudetto title.

In the career of Kwadwo Asamoah is written a parable of the tactical history of African football. When he emerged, making his international debut in 2006 when he was just 17, he was hailed as the first great Ghanaian playmaker since Abedi Pele.

Until a decade or so ago, West Africa specialized in technically gifted attacking midfielders or second strikers - as well as Pele, there were the likes of Nii Lamptey, Theophile Abega, Jay-Jay Okocha and Kanu, players who dropped deep from the front line and had the patience and skill to hold the ball up, wait for a runner and deliver the pass.

Then there came a dearth, something Tom Vernon, who runs a coaching school in the hills above Accra and scouts for Manchester United, blames on "the Papa Bouba Diop" template. His theory is that western European clubs start to associate a region with developing a particular type of player: When they want a Papa Bouba Diop style robust holding midfielder, they look to West Africa.

As a result a disproportionate number of holding midfielders are sold from West Africa to Europe, which in turn encourages coaches and academies in West Africa to try to convert any gifted player into a Papa Bouba Diop-style midfielder. Something similar happens in Argentina with No. 10s.

"I see that African football is heading away from flair and more towards the team," said Okocha four years ago.

"Football has changed over the years and there aren't really any playmakers anymore. It's more about tactical work. I see African countries playing more like European ones. That's the only way to become competitive. It's a pity it's at the expense of flair, because fans want to enjoy their money and see good football. If you could combine the flair with goals it would be great.

Asamoah stood apart from the template; he seemed to be the answer to Okocha's vision of flair plus productivity. He had quick feet and a good brain and rapidly progressed. He was spotted in Accra playing for his local side Kaaseman at 17 and joined the Ghanaian top flight side Liberty Professionals. In 2008, aged 19, he left Ghana for Europe, joining the Swiss side Bellinzona, before securing a transfer to Udinese.

He soon became a regular there and after helping Ghana to the U-20 World Cup in 2009, he established himself as a starter in the senior side, operating as the link between what was often a deep-lying midfield and the lone center forward Asamoah Gyan.

He helped them to the final of the 2010 African Cup of Nations - when Abedi Pele spoke with delight of at last seeing another Ghanaian who did something approaching what he used to do - and the quarterfinal of the World Cup later that year before, in summer 2012, securing a move to Juventus.

Sports Illustrated's Jonathan Wilson profiles the undervalued, under-the-radar but versatile Juventus midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah who is on the cusp of winning his third Scudetto title.

And that's where we come back to the issue of West African creators. Although Asamoah is a mainstay of the side, and looks all but certain to win a second successive Serie A title this season, he is not playing as a playmaker, but as a left wingback.


For Ghana, Asamoah still plays in midfield, but he is no longer playing behind a central striker. At the last Cup of Nations, in South Africa last year, he tended to play on the left of a 4-2-3-1, looking to cut infield to support Gyan. More recently, with the emergence of Abdul Waris and the return to the side of Dede Ayew after a dispute with the coach James Appiah, the shape has changed to a 4-3-3, with Asamoah operating to the left of a central trio, alongside two of Michael Essien, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu and Sulley Muntari.

That seems a more natural fit for him and his role is not that different to four years ago: back then the midfield often sat so far back that Asamoah would end playing much deeper than a traditional 10 in the 4-3-3, rather than constantly having to charge back from an advanced position, he is charging forward from deep.


At the last two Cups of Nations, Ghana has been weirdly diffirent, lacking the aggression and focus to progress beyond the semifinals. If it has a full squad, though, with Ayew, Essien and Muntari, Ghana ought at least to make a serious challenge to make it through a tough group. If it is to do so, though, it needs Asamoah to be at his best.

He is the central creative intelligence in the side and, as the stars age and Ayew continues to meander, the senior player. Tactically he is the link between midfield and the forward line, but Asmaoah also has a leadership role. It's not the case that if you stop Asamoah you stop Ghana, but the Black Stars will find it much harder if he is not at his best.

By: Jonathan Wilson, Sports Illustrated


This article has 13 comment(s), give your comment
  • apiangalege says:
    April 23, 2014 11:09 am
    All na hype bo!
  • benny says:
    April 23, 2014 11:37 am
    Kwadwo Asamoah is by Ghana best player. If AA can build a strategy around him like Micheal Essien in Chelsea 2008 , making him the surging force, we will go places. Unfortunately AA doesn't know how to build a player centred tavtical strategy.
  • benny says:
    April 23, 2014 11:39 am
    Kwadwo Asamoah is by far Ghana best player. If AA can build a strategy around him like Micheal Essien in Chelsea 2008 , making him the surging force, we will go places. Unfortunately AA doesn't know how to build a player centred tavtical strategy.
  • kuukuphilly says:
    April 23, 2014 12:09 pm
    Is about time this Guy start to explode cause I know he has it in him.
  • apiangalege says:
    April 23, 2014 12:58 pm
    Waow,can't stop celebrating the fact that Nigerian sons;Super Eagles' Coach Stephen Keshi is 22nd best coach worldwide and best in Africa,Vincent Enyeama best goalkeeper in Europe,Africa and world over with 21 clean sheets!Super Eagles like a phoenix rising and ready to shock the world in Brazil. Watch out!
  • askantwi says:
    April 23, 2014 01:33 pm
    You got it right about Asamoah. However, you are wrong with AA. I believe AA is definitely going to do what you just suggested at the world cup. Asamoah and Kevin are the key.
  • askantwi says:
    April 23, 2014 01:36 pm
    It very much depends on how the coach will play him. They should give him a free roaming like the way Argentina gave Maradona and Bacelona gave Messi under Guardiola.
  • askantwi says:
    April 23, 2014 01:38 pm
    Nigeria only has one good player; Vincent Enyeama. The rest are just throwing the dice.
  • banger says:
    April 23, 2014 02:35 pm
  • Genuwine says:
    April 23, 2014 03:03 pm
    @ apiangalege oh I am surprise you going to a tournament and your coach and keeper are the only good materials you are having in your team and you are celebrating .you sound very funny papa.
  • Kesiade says:
    April 23, 2014 03:16 pm
    Just add this guy with Ayew, David Ancam, Waris, Asamoah Gyan, Micheal Essian, Muntari, and the defence and it will be game over with reserves like, Boateng,Atsu,Wakasu we will be condtenders for sure.
  • apiangalege says:
    April 23, 2014 03:45 pm
    Hahahahahaha....the internet as a global village,knows no tribe,creed,color or boundary. So how are u gonna stop me from posting on your ghanaian sphere...hahahaha!Oh,Super Eagles of Nigeria is brimming with potentials of greatness which by the grace of Jehovah Christafara will be actualize in Brazil 2014.Enyeama,Ejide, Alampasu,Echiejile, Efe,Omeruo,Balogun,Oboabona,Onazi,Mikel,Moses,Musa,MbaEgwueke, Ameobi, Emenike,Osaze,Uzoenyi,Ideye,Ezekiel,Nsofor,Obasi,Obi, Uchebo...World champions in waiting...look properly and you ll see the halo and aura of gold and glory hovering around these annoited!Abeg no vex na wetin Baba God don tok b dis!I dey celebrate o!
  • Ghanaman says:
    April 23, 2014 11:43 pm
    If we can avoid meeting the likes of Mali,Zambia and Burkina Faso then AFCON could be ours.