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FIFA World Cup Draw: Venues, Opponents And Preparations

Tue, 3 Dec 2013 Source: Ampofo Ankrah

(Part 1)

Ghanaian Sports journalist and Special Advisor to the Minister of Youth and Sports Yaw Ampofo Ankrah has predicted that Friday's World Cup draw in Salvador, Brazil will be a tense affair - comparable to a penalty shoot-out.

''For the first time in a World Cup tournament, coaches are more concerned about getting a good venue city than being grouped with tough opponents'' The reason is not too farfetched as most European teams are hoping to get the southern coastal cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba but for Ghana, no matter the opponents and no matter the climate, preparations must be water tight.

Originally, the 2014 World Cup was proposed to return to the system used in the earliest competitions, where the host country would be divided into regions, in which teams would be based for all of their group matches.

But there would be no such luxury for teams in Brazil even though it would make great economic sense by cutting down on travelling, and ease the burden on Brazil's airport capacity, considered the weakest link in the 2014 World Cup plan.

Yet, such common sense made no political sense because the whole country wants a chance to see their beloved dream team.

And according to a recent BBC report '' The hosts are travelling around - Sao Paulo in the south-east, Fortaleza up in the north-east and Brasilia in the centre. And if Brazil are criss-crossing the country, so is everyone else''. Imagine Ghana hosting the Nations Cup in only the Northern and Ashanti regions of the country for ''economic reasons''?

It would be politically suicidal and would never see the light of day. The Sports media consultant and Supersport presenter is convinced that only shrewd planning, wise investment and bold innovations by teams working closely with local authorities in Brazil and their own governments would bring needed results.

'' This World Cup tournament is a national project that must unite 25 million people and it is not a political statement but a genuine call for us all to rally around our Black Stars team to generate that positive spirit the team needs to succeed''

Head coach Kwasi Appiah is already in Brazil for the draw as part of the biggest joint delegation by Ghana to a World Cup draw.

It is likely that he would remain in Brazil after the draw on Friday to physically take a look at Ghana's venues and take in vital information albeit seven months before the tournament kicks off. There have been concerns raised in the Ghanaian media that mistakes from the recent Afcon 2013 tournament where supporters were taken to South Africa with no proper orientation and no obligation to be brand Ambassadors for Ghana might be repeated. But that notion is quickly dismissed.

''Some people may think that it is okay to just qualify, send plane loads of supporters to Brazil, have a big party for two weeks and come back home but that is not the plan of the team especially when you speak with Kwesi Nyantakyi, the Youth and Sports Minister and coach Kwasi Appiah.

''They are very serious about the task ahead and so should we in the media especially when it comes to branding Ghana via tourism, trade, music and culture, commerce and the countless business opportunities that would surely emerge ''

In terms of the Black Stars machine itself, the former BBC reporter is not too concerned about the final team as he reckons that player for player, the current Black Stars squad possess the right ingredients to write a new chapter in World Cup history.

''At close quarters, I have witnessed three World Cup qualification campaigns from 2005 to 2013 and I believe this current squad holds comparative advantage over the previous two teams - and that is their mental fortitude'' ''God willing, all our key players will be 100% fit for the finals in June and that should give the coach flexibility and the needed headache of choosing his first eleven for every match''

Critically, according to Ampofo-Ankrah, the team must feel at home just as they did in South Africa and before that in Germany.

‘'Our boys have always fed off the positive energy of supporters as we have witnessed recently in matches played in Kumasi where there seems to be a magnetic chorus of audible support for the players''.

Ampofo Ankrah is confident that coach Appiah will lead the team come June 2014 but he still needs all the support from within and externally to hit his peak and deliver spectacular results in Brazil.

''I have no doubt that Kwasi has what it takes to make an impact. Yet potential alone will not get Ghana far. We must help him to bring out his best and the best from the players. Those who say we should leave him to go to the World Cup just like that without extra resources are either mis-informed or simply do not understand the great battle we are going to fight. Let us prepare well''. Meanwhile Ghana Sports International can confirm that the first batch of Ghana’s delegation for the draw, has arrived safely in Salvador, Brazil.

They include the Hon Minister of Youth and Sports, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, Ghana Football Association President, Mr. Kwasi Nyantakyi, GFA Communications Director Ibrahim Sannie Daara, GFA General Secretary Emmanuel Gyimah, GFA committee member George Afriyie, Vice President of the GFA Fred Crentsil, Black Stars Management Committee member Felix Ansong and Ghana Coach Kwasi Appiah.

The second batch is expected in Brazil on Wednesday and includes the Chief of Staff, Hon. Prosper Bani, Mrs Mawena Trebrah from the GIPC, GFA management member Hon. Yaw Boakye Gyan, NPP Upper East Member of Parliament for Nabdam constituency Hon. Boniface Gambilla and veteran sports journalist Kwabena Yeboah.

In part 2, read Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah's predictions for the Black Stars group and why destiny favours Ghana.

Source: Ampofo Ankrah