The Black Stars have a tough road ahead, and a potential sibling rivalry on the line.
Players to watch
Michael Essien is past his prime and likely to play a more defensive role now, and Asamoah Gyan, who seemed on the verge of becoming one of Africa’s great strikers in 2010, now wanders in the football wilderness.
Kevin-Prince Boateng remains an explosive force when he joins the attack from midfield, but he too may have lost some of the snap that made him so dangerous four years ago. But the one Ghana player just coming into his stride now is Kwadwo Asamoah.
The left-sided midfielder had an outstanding league season helping Juventus run away with Serie A in Italy, and with his exquisite passing range, speed and vision, he is the team’s creative heart through whom most of its attacking play will flow.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was the first held on the Mother Continent, yet five of the six African participants failed to shine — it was left to the Black Stars to carry the continent’s hopes, and they looked a good bet to become Africa’s first semifinalists when Uruguay striker Luis Suárez used his hand to stop a goal-bound header by Dominic Adiyiah that would have won the game. Suárez was sent off, but the resultant penalty, the last kick of extra time, was skied by Gyan. The Uruguayans won the game in a penalty shootout (in which Gyan scored).
Nobody’s giving Ghana much chance of progressing beyond a group of death that pits it against Germany, Portugal and the USA.
The team is vulnerable in defense and its midfield is overly reliant on old warhorses like Essien and Sulley Muntari, while striker and captain Gyan may never have recovered from the psychological scars of his penalty miss in South Africa, and left the English Premier League for the oblivion of Abu Dhabi club Al Ain.
It will be tough for them to get out of their group although they have knocked the USA out of the last two tournaments.
Despite the limitations, there are plenty of bright spots: Boateng is a tigerish and talented attacking midfielder, Asamoah is a classy playmaker and André Ayew a mercurial talent. Anything is possible in a group of death precisely because more powerful contenders can often neutralize one another and create opportunities for less-fancied teams to progress.
Did you know?
When Ghana faces Germany, there’s a very good chance that Kevin-Prince Boateng will face his brother, Jérôme, a defender on the German team. Both Boatengs grew up in Germany, sons of a German mother and a Ghanaian father. Jérôme chose to play for Germany, Kevin-Prince for Ghana.
The Ghanaian Boateng is also the player who has most directly confronted racism from the bleachers, leading his AC Milan teammates in a walkout from a friendly game in which opposition supporters had been making monkey noises — and challenging UEFA to do more to fight racism.