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Ghana versus Egypt: Will November showdown matter to the Black Stars?

Published on: 11 October 2017

With Egypt clinching the sole Group E ticket for Russia 2018, November's hitherto dreaded trip to Ghana has been rendered a dead rubber.

Be that is it may, the match remains of importance to the disappointed Black Stars as, having failed to qualify for a fourth successive World Cup, preparations have commenced in earnest for an immediate return to the global showpiece as well as taking another shot at ending their Africa Cup of Nations woes at Cameroon 2019.

For starters, Ghana’s inability to make Russia 2018 could be the best thing to have happened to the Black Stars since the 2014 World Cup debacle.

In Brazil, the ‘big boys’, led by Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng only contributed trouble, effectively prompting their snub from the team since.

Kwadwo Asamoah's injury problems mean the Juventus man has had to excuse himself from national duty from the same year.

These four do not only command high respect in the team but also inspire confidence - both within and beyond. Again, they presented a revered and dangerous Black Stars.

However, Ghana has had to do without the quartet since 2014. There has been the need for a 'new team' - new leaders, new spine, new enforcers.

However, Afcon 2015 and the desire to end Ghana's title drought meant there was little or no time to rebuild. Appointed just one month before the tournament, Avram Grant was forced to repackage the 'sick' team, hoping to cause an upset in Equatorial Guinea.

That very nearly happened, as Ghana only succumbed to Cote d'Ivoire on penalties in the final.

In the midst of preparing for another challenge in 2017, 2018 World Cup qualifying kicked in. Consequently, there was still no time to overhaul the 'sick' team for a new one.

It was stunning that Ghana went all the way to the final in 2015. Some called it a travesty.

When the team performed abysmally at Gabon 2017, there was then a sharp reminder that the Black Stars indeed urgently needed an overhaul, even if there was also the desire to present a 'fairly good' team - which the 'sick one' was – in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

The belief was that a 'new team' would not have cooked well in enough within the short available time to launch a strong challenge for Russia 2018.

It was a short-term resolve.

It made sense, and that left Ghana with the old guards until last month's disappointing home draw with Congo, which all but ended the Black Stars’ World Cup dreams.

New coach Kwesi Appiah must be commended for his rather quick reaction to the Congo setback by deciding that there and then, the time was right to begin an overhaul, even if that was partly forced by the Ayews’ withdrawal from the second leg.

But to be fair, the 57-year-old had a real desire to strike an overhaul from day one, his intentions apparent by his snub of 'old guards' like Mubarak Wakaso, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Razak Brimah since taking over in May.

In the return fixture in Brazzaville, the Black Stars lined up with a new-look side, the XI consisting of only five men from the usual team.

Daniel Amartey, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful, Afriyie Acquah and Christian Atsu were the only long-term serving names, and there was immediate reward as the Black Stars thrashed the Red Devils 5-1.

On Saturday, it only took South African referee Daniel Bennett to deny Appiah's side victory as legitimate goals from Amartey and Raphael Dwamena were controversially overruled.

That would have been two wins for the 'new-look' side, which had Amartey and returnee Daniel Opare as the only main long-term men in the XI in Kampala.

It’s certainly an encouraging start to the Black Stars’ revival.

It’s fair to say that Appiah’s rebuilding process would be kicked to the curb had Ghana made it to the World Cup in the last minute, as the four-time African champions cannot afford to parade around 'rookies' in Russia next year.

However, as things stand, Appiah has all the time to build a formidable team.

The signs have been auspicious, and with the next major tournament two clear years away, Ghana can look forward to presenting strong hungry set-up when the roll-call sounds for Cameroon 2019.

November’s clash with Egypt is just another fine opportunity to test the new-look’s strength against unarguably one of the best on the continent – a side who laughed at the expense of the Black Stars in Alexandria on Sunday.

Source: Goal.com 

 

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