Sports Features of Fri, 24 Aug 201823
Clueless Ghana squad leaves more questions than answers for Kwesi Appiah
The thing about fakes is that nobody wants them, not even those who proudly show them off. For if they had the chance, they would swap for an original. That looks like always the case, but as Ghana coach James Kwesi Appiah has shown, the ‘law’ is certainly not cast in stone.
On Wednesday, Appiah unveiled his 21-man squad for next month's 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Kenya. After the announcement, the public verdict has been terribly loud, gravely unanimous and hugely emphatic: "the fake was damn better!”
Last week, a leaked 23-man team, which has turned out to be nothing but a figment of somebody's excited imagination, gave Ghanaians plenty to talk about.
Not only did the squad look thorough, but it profoundly highlighted the supposed path Appiah has been on since assuming duty last year. Importantly, it showed the supposed quest to build a new team in place of the disappointing senile decrepit monolith.
Goalkeeper Richard Ofori and Lawrence Ati Zigi kept their places as the men for the sticks. While 22-year-old Sporting Lisbon's Agbenyenu Lumor maintained his spot as the only recognized left-back as we wait for the return of fit-again Baba Rahman. Andy Yiadom kept his place after a decent performance in the last double-header of friendlies against Japan and Iceland. Veteran Harrison Afful and the inconsistent Daniel Opare, however, missed out.
At centre-back, Daniel Amartey, who looks like a man Appiah will be trusting as his main right-back option was called, alongside new TSG Hoffenheim signing Kasim Adams, 23, and new Udinese acquisition Nicholas Opoku, 21. Jonathan Mensah, who has lost some yards of pace, and good-old John Boye were snubbed.
‘Unpatriotic’ Mubarak Wakaso, 28, was also excluded. This was not surprising, considering he opted against travelling for the last double-header due to a slash in allowance. Enterprising Sassuolo man Alfred Duncan was supposedly rewarded by Kwesi Appiah, taking seats alongside returnee Kwadwo Asamoah, Thomas Partey and Afriyie Acquah as the main midfield men.
Then the wingers comprised the likes of Christian Atsu, in-form Frank Acheampong and Dutch-born Edwin Gyasi. Bayern Munich striker Kwasi Okyere Wriedt maintained his place in attack alongside Levante duo of Raphael Dwamena and Emmanuel Boateng.
That squad also had debut call-ups for centre-back Joseph Aidoo, 22, Ernest Ohemeng, 22, and Obeng Reagan, 24.
Captain Asamoah Gyan and the Ayew brothers were, however, left out, a decision that could be attributed to their divisive nature in the team, and partly due to club issues.
The squad looked well-rounded, included almost all the best men available, showed a team under construction, and, more so, highlight what Appiah has been trying to do on his second coming.
Then there was the official squad released on Wednesday, an assembly markedly different in look, thought, significance and representation.
In-from Crystal Palace man Schlupp was second time unlucky as he again missed out in the new list, while there was no room, this time, for Lumor, Duncan,Wriedt and the recuperating Boateng. Instead, 33-year-old Afful has surprisingly been recalled, alongside Boye, 31, and Opare, who turns 28 in two months. Nantes striker Majeed Waris, who will be 27 next month, is also back.
This is no way to say that the ‘old’ returnees have nothing more to offer the Black Stars. Opare and Afful will look more assuring at right-back than Yiadom or Amartey probably ever will. Boye will certainly be more trusted in central defence than Rashid Sumaila, Joseph Attamah or Aidoo.
The concern about their recalls has to do with what looks like an abject deviation from the path Appiah made Ghanaians believe he was on: an assembly of a new order, an injection of energy, bite, promise, and more so, hunger.
Lack of activity due to change of clubs or the fact that their European leagues are only now starting could be the possible explanation for the omissions.
That notion, as it turns out, is palpably flawed considering the presence of some other names on the authentic roster.
While Opoku was an unused substitute in Udinese’s Serie A opener, Adams failed to even make the matchday squad in Hoffenheim's German Cup fixture on Saturday. Atsu has only managed 21 minutes of game time from a possible 180 for Newcastle so far, failing to make the matchday squad for Saturday's Premier League encounter with Cardiff City.
There have also been concerns over the lack of consistency in Appiah’s call-ups, with every single list throwing up new faces or inexplicable absentees. He had promised to have a settled squad by midyear, but that, as it appears, was mere talk.
And lest I forget, there has been a debut call-up for 28-year-old Belgium-based striker William Owusu.
Absurd, ridiculous, funny, but believe you me, this time, the fake would get more takers.