Sports News Tue, 22 May 2018

Ayews overshadow Appiah squad again but Ghana's prospects look good

Kwesi Appiah has been 'shaking some tables' as Black Stars manager whenever he's unveiled a new squad, and his selection for Ghana's upcoming international friendlies is no different.

The West African giants travel to Japan and then Iceland for their first games of the year, and Appiah's call-ups have provided a clue about age-old tensions in the team.

His picks also demonstrate that he's preparing for the inevitable exit of the country's most prolific goalscorer, while also planning for the nation's longer-term future by introducing a steady stream of youngsters into the squad.

"There are some players involved in league games and those who asked to be excused after long seasons," Appiah told KweséESPN. "Under the circumstances, they are not obliged, but I hope that this proves a very useful exercise in rebuilding the team.

"[It can also] provide us with more options when the African Cup of Nations qualifiers resume." Involvement in club football is a key reason why none of Ghana's Major League Soccer players are in the squad.

Jonathan Mensah and Harrison Afful, two States-based Black Stars regulars have club commitments.

Captain Asamoah Gyan will sit out the two games, while Appiah opted against re-calling the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan.

Appiah can justify the decision to leave out Andre on poor form after a difficult season for West Ham United and Swansea City, but the absence of his brother Jordan has been a hot talking point since the squad was announced.

Appiah has been called petty, and the old accusation that he is simply settling an old existing feud with the family has refused to go away.

He has refused to be drawn into the discussion, but his relationship with the Ayews has been frosty, especially after they both claimed they couldn't travel for an away World Cup qualifier in Congo-Brazzaville because of injury.

The considerable uproar over Jordan's omission is evidence of a remarkable turnaround in the way the player is perceived.

There was a time when the forward's name in a Black Stars squad list triggered a backlash, but now, his absence is rightly being questioned.

That's a result of his best season in English football when he netted 11 goals in all competitions for Swansea City and battled tirelessly against the Welsh club's ultimate relegation to the Championship.

His international future is a subject that just won't go away for Appiah.

The Ghana boss will hope the other strikers he has brought into the side will back up his decision and help fans forget the omission of the younger Ayew.

Every Ghana game these days is part of a process of rebuilding a squad that aged too fast and refreshed too late, and it feels as though each passing match is part of the process of finding a long-term successor to Asamoah Gyan.

Levante's Emmanuel Boateng could be the answer, and demonstrated his quality with a hat-trick against Barcelona to end the Spanish champions' undefeated streak.

He'll be back in a Ghana shirt after representing the country at junior level, and while his return this season of six goals isn't breathtaking, he's only 21 and Appiah will be hoping for increasing returns over the coming years.

Raphael Dwamena will be his main competition for the two friendly games.

The FC Zurich striker recovered from a failed move to Brighton and Hove Albion to score 13 goals this season for the Swiss side.

The duo could be in competition for the striker's slot for many years to come, and appear to match the kind of profile that Appiah is building his base around; those who are stable rather than stellar at club level.

Lumor Agbenyenu has progressed quietly at Sporting Lisbon on the blind side of many Ghanaian fans with 27 appearances for the Portuguese side, while centre-back Kasim Nuhu is establishing himself with a national side after an encouraging campaign with Young Boys.

NAC Breda's Thomas Agyepong returned from injury just in time to convince Appiah that he deserves another chance.

The absence of home-based players extends the age-old discussion about how national-team coaches ignore Ghana Premier League players, with Asante Kotoko goalkeeper Felix Annan arguably unfortunate to miss out.

It's one of the few negative points in a squad that suggests Appiah is prepared, once again, to take the long-term view about dragging the Black Stars back to the pinnacle of the African game.

Source: kwese.espn.com