All roads lead to the Kumasi Sports Stadium as the Black Stars of Ghana lock horns with the Pharaohs of Egypt in the first leg of the 2014 World Cup play-off.The match is undoubtedly the biggest test for both players and coach of the Black Stars as they meet the most successful African team on the continent. Egypt have been as high as 9th in the FIFA World rankings and in the process become one of the two African countries to enter the world top ten. However, they have appeared in arguably the greatest soccer mundial only twice with no victories.
The Pharaohs had to shake off competition from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Guinea without a defeat and will undoubtedly provide competition for James Akwasi Appiah and his boys as they seek to make a historic third appearance at the World Cup in Brazil next year. During the African Cup of Nations 2010 hosted by Angola, the two big weights in African football met in the final where a certain Gedo (Discovery and top scorer of the tournament) made Egypt the eventual winners for an unprecedented third time in a row via an 85th minute goal. In the post for the stars was Richard “Olele” Kingson who made into the substitutes team of the tournament together with Kwadwo Asamoah.
Fast forward to three years and his call up to the team after two years out of the game has raised some eye brows. His age has been a subject of debate in the media with CAF having to come out to clear the air about the matter. In my personal opinion I think the experienced gloves man would have served the nation better if he came in to help groom the young ones than flying in as one of the three goalkeepers on the team. It is true that we do have goalkeeping problems but must we turn back the hands of time by calling “Olele” when our defence which is supposed to shield anyone in post have had its own jittery times? Come October 15 2013 our regular center halves and even the known backups won’t be available through injury. The task will fall on Rashid Sumaila and his compatriots to take up the mantle and perhaps stake a claim in the national team. Harrison Afful who had made the Left back his own is also unavailable through suspension and this will surely give Akwasi Appiah and his technical men headache as the other options are too attacking minded or defensive minded unlike Afful who is a mixture of both. I will not be surprised if Baba Abdul Rahman gets the nod to fill his boots. In midfield, the services of Rabiu Alhassan Mohammed who plays for FC Kuban Krasnodar will be missed sorely and I am not sure Michael Essien who has slowed down due to age will be up to the task of breaking down the fast play of the Egyptians. Perhaps if only a certain Anthony Annan was fit and playing regular football we will not be crying foul about the loss of Rabiu.
There is also the issue of Kevin Prince Boateng who gets” injured” after almost every call up. Rumour has it that he could have played in the Zambia game but the “hard” surface in Ghana proved unfriendly to his troublesome knee resulting in the decision to sit out the win over Zambia. I do not know how Prince can ever play for the Stars in Ghana since the pitches in Accra and Kumasi managed by Green Grass Technology share the same features. Sulley Muntari is back in the camp of the Stars and that is positive news if he will carry his A.C Milan form into the game as he put two balls past Buffon in his last game against Juventus. The $15 000 which will be delved out to the eleven players and possible substitutes who will don the jerseys on the day has filled almost every corner of sports discussion along the length and breadth of the country that won a trophy at the senior level some thirty something years ago. If qualifying for the biggest soccer tournament played every four years is not enough motivation for the boys then I do not know what should inspire them to win.
Meanwhile their Egyptian Counterparts will be taking less than half that colossal amount. Besides they stand to benefit the most if we make it to Brazil. Going into the match, whoever gets the nod to start at right back must deal with the pace and crosses of Al Ahly‘s Ahmed Shedid. If Kwadwo Asamoah gets the nod to starts he needs to gets into spaces to provide the “killer” passes and fouls for the stars by making use of possible pairing of Basel boy Mohammed El-Nenny and Hossam Ghaly. Legend Mohammed Abou Trika must not be made to posses the ball in or around the final third where he will likely play in the “hole” behind the likely striker Amr Zaki. Do not be surprised to see the man who broke Ghana’s heart in Angola (Mohammed Nagy Gedo) coming on if things get tough for Bob Bradley and his men. The danger man for me is FC Basel’s Mohamed Salah who is likely to operate from the left wing from where he has six goals to his name in the Qualifiers already and our men on the right have to deal with his threat. On the day, I expect the stars to utilize every ball to their advantage especially dead ball situations. Asamoah Gyan who has to me, been short of the inspirational figure we need as a captain must on the day not be the “normal” striker we know of; squandering some chances before pulling the trigger. Anyone who gets to keep the post must command the defence well and the defenders must as well keep their eyes on the ball. The engine room of the team must keep things simple and tidy. Coach James Akwasi Appiah must on the day be the inspirational figure. Lastly, the fans of who purchased the tickets in record time must cheer on the eleven gallant men and surely Ghana will not only win but win convincingly see their opponents off so that the return leg will be a mere formality.