High and lows of Black Stars in 2018
It’s been 12 months of highs and lows for the Black Stars. The team that once was a big interest point for many Ghanaians now has divided attention. 2018 had different shades of moments for the Black Stars. Here are the highs and lows.
Japan vs Ghana
2018 may have started with so much optimism but it certainly did not end in the best of fashions.
On May 5, 2018, Ghana’s Black Stars started 2018 with a 2-0 victory against the Blue Samurai of Japan in an international friendly played in Tokyo.
The match was to help the two teams assess their strengths and weaknesses ahead of international assignments.
For Japan, it was the 2018 World Cup in Russia while the Black Stars were gauging themselves before the resumption of the 2019 AFCON qualifiers.
The Black Stars took the lead in the 9th minute through a free kick from Thomas Partey who captained the team on the day.
Japan sought the equaliser but they found no success due to poor finishing and decisive goalkeeping from Richard Ofori in the post for Ghana.
Following a goalless first half, Ghana found the second from an Emmanuel Boateng penalty. The Levante man was brought down by Japan goalie Eiji Kawashima as he chased a long punt from Richard Ofori.
The victory was the third for Kwesi Appiah in his second stint in charge of the team.
Iceland vs Ghana
The most controversial friendly for the Stars following the government's decision to halt all football activities in the country took off in Iceland.
The pre-match period was tensed for the side after news filtered in the camp that the government of Ghana was set to dissolve all national football activities after undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas ’ investigative film which exposed massive rot and corruption in local football. But soon, they were given the all clear to honour their friendly match against Iceland.
Iceland missed the chance to go to the World Cup with a much-needed victory after Ghana came from two goals behind to earn a 2-2 draw.
Iceland, who had lost their previous three friendlies - made a strong start in Reykjavik, Kari Arnason and Alfred Finnbogason scoring to earn a 2-0 first-half lead for the hosts.
There was nothing Ghana could do about Iceland's sixth-minute opener as Arnason headed home a corner and added a second in the 40th minute.
Ghana then set up an exciting finish when Kassim Nuhu thumped home from a set-piece.
Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey on hand to slam in Frank Acheampong's low left-wing cross.
Kenya vs Ghana
On September 8, the Black Stars suffered an early setback in their bid to reach an eighth straight Africa Cup of Nations as they fell to a shock 1-0 defeat by Kenya in Nairobi.
The win was the Harambee Stars' first over the Black Stars in a competitive game, with their only previously triumph coming in 2003 friendly.
Nicholas Opoku's first-half own goal gave the Harambee Stars all three points despite playing for the final thirty minutes with ten men.
Kwesi Appiah left returnee Kwadwo Asamoah on the bench, didn't pick Harrison Afful and opted to start with Majeed Waris up front instead of Raphael Dwamena.
Those changes didn't affect the chances Ghana created, but their finishing was lacking.
Kenya sat deeper as the half wore on and grew more physical in their defending.
Ghana vs Sierra Leone- cancelled
Ghana seek to recover from the Nairobi setback with a home game against Sierra Leone in October at Kumasi Baba Yara Stadium.
However, the October 11 and 15 matches did not hold following Sierra Leone's failure to meet a FIFA's ultimatum, under which the matches would have proceeded as planned.
"AFCON Qualifier matches Ghana vs Sierra Leone & Sierra Leone vs Ghana on the 11th and 14th of October respectively have been cancelled as SLFA did not meet the conditions stipulated in the letter sent by CAF on FIFA’s decision to suspend the federation," Caf announced via its official Twitter account on Tuesday night.
Ghana was awarded full points for the two games as Sierra Leone was taken out of the group completely leaving only three teams. The results of the Leone Stars' two games played was nullified.
Ethiopia vs Ghana
However, with just a few months to the end of the year, Ghana's dream to qualify to the 2019 African Cup of Nations came with the Black Stars once again ended up with maximum points against Ethiopia in far away from Addis Ababa.
Jordan Ayew's two goals sealed qualification for Ghana to ease pressure on coach Kwesi Appiah.
Ayew scored twice in the first half to take the Ghanaians to six points, one behind Group F leaders Kenya having played a game fewer.
Assuming suspended Sierra Leone are disqualified from resuming their qualifying campaign, Ghana cannot be overtaken in the top two qualification positions.
CAF may yet allow the Leone Stars to complete their programme, meaning that Ghana's AFCON participation cannot yet be confirmed.
Kwesi Appiah called on his big names for the game in Addis Ababa and the returning Ayew brothers, playing for the national side for the first time since September 2017, didn't disappoint.
Jordan put the Black Stars in front after only four minutes when he got on the end of a pass from Harrison Afful and picked his spot to the right of goalkeeper Abel Mamo.
That goal set the Black Stars up for a dominant first-half display, and they doubled their advantage from the spot after 24 minutes when Mamo brought down Emmanuel Boateng.
The Levante striker was played through on goal by a brilliant left-footed pass from Andre Ayew, and Jordan slotted home the resultant spot kick to mark a triumphant return for the brothers.
That first-half display proved to be enough for Ghana, who were happy to sit back for much of drab second half and hold on for the 2-0 win.
The Black Stars will be back in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying action in March 2019 at home to Kenya, although it remains to be seen whether they will be required to play their postponed double-header against Sierra Leone.
That is 2018 for the Black Stars in retrospect!
In summary, the Stars began their 2019 AFCON qualifiers in 2018 on a low and ended on a high, raising concerns about the team’s inconsistent performance which needs to be stabled by Coach Kwesi Appiah before the final stage of the 2019 AFCON qualifiers.