Monday, March 8, 2010

My 23 man Black Stars squad for the South Africa 2010 World Cup

I'm on a roll, I've already published three blog posts today. Let's talk about sports for a bit. Last week, with little publicity, the Black Stars of Ghana faced Bosnia-Herzegovina in a friendly in Sarajevo. The Black Stars lost 2-1. As usual, while some fingers were pointed, some fingers were crossed, some toes were crossed and some toes were giddy. It's about 3 months to the start of this year's World Cup in South Africa and I can't wait. I am fully confident that the Black Stars team will get their act together before the World Cup and make Ghanaians and Africans proud. A few things need to be done and I want to offer a few thoughts and suggestions.

Richard Olele Kingston may be warming the bench at Wigan Athletic in cold England but he's still the undisputed number one Ghanaian goalie. In fact, he's right up there with all African goalkeepers. He's lost some of his agility but a goalkeeper must command respect and he does this best amongst all available options. I'll love to see Daniel Adjei make the final squad alongside George Owu. Owu has been solid everywhere he's been, he's not spectacular but he's also not flawed.

Central defence
John Mensah the Rock of Gibraltar has had so many problems staying fit that now he's been simply christened 'Glass'. I hope he stays in shape and is fit for the mundial and leaves his tendencies to set high lines and offside traps at home when he gets to South Africa. Alongside John in central defence has to be Isaac Vorsah. He proved his worth at the Nations Cup but he must also learn to score a few goals from set-pieces. He must make adequate use of his height. We know, unlike me, he's not afraid to head the ball. Lee Addy's name was mentioned so much by commentators at the African Cup that that alone should guarantee him a ticket to South Africa. He's still raw but he'll get smarter hanging around the other professionals. Eric Addo must be retired from Black Star service and Francis Dickoh should take his place ahead of Jonathan Mensah. He's tried and tested at higher levels than both Addy and Jonathan, and would be a great insurance with the fragility of John Mensah looming.

Wing defence
John Paintsil had been the most consistent Black Stars player before he got injured last Christmas but some naysayers will point to his lack of concentration as a defender. He and Samuel Inkoom stand above right-backs in Ghana but the man who once tried to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine at a football match should win out. Inkoom's been a winner but Paintsil has the versatility to change a game, as well as the experience. Thank God for Hans Adu Sarpei. The left-back position has been a problem since Isaac Asare's age caught up with him. Hans is not flashy or fast but is a very solid defender and is very technical. David Addy, the World Youth cup winner should be taken as his backup. This is a young lad with so much promise and I think is a joy to watch. These guys must learn to put in decent crosses though and should consult Bukom Banku for diets that will make them Energizer Bunnies.

Central midfield
The strength of the Black Stars' team is the midfield as it is blessed with arguably the best defensive midfielder in the game - Michael Essien. The Bison has been injury prone but he should be fit as a fiddle by the time June rolls around. One big debate in Ghanaian football circles is whether Anthony Annan should start for Ghana so he can do the dirty work while Essien ventures up front to help our toothless strikeforce. I believe Essien should play the defensive midfield position with Pokinho Annan relegated to the bench. Essien plays this position excellently for Chelsea and before that, he marvelled with Lyon. He can produce a moment of attacking magic no matter where he plays so he should play at his natural position. Ahead of him in attacking midfield should be Kwadwo Asamoah. Kwadwo is the closest Black Star to Abedi Pele I've seen in the last 10 years. Spelling him on the bench comes down to Prince Buaben, and Emmanuel Agyemang Badu. I've not seen the former play much but I think he should get the nod here for his performances in the Scottish Premier League. In order to win the World Cup, you must have a world-class team. We are not going to the World Cup for our players to be scouted, we are going there to win.

Wing midfield
Sulley Muntari owns the left winger position and proved his worth when he returned from his 'indisciplinary' suspension from the Black Stars to score our only goal in a freezing Sarajevo. He must learn to control his aggressiveness since we can't afford to have him pick silly yellow and red cards. On the right, I am excited about Kevin Prince-Boateng. It's taking an eternity to get his paperwork through but once he's done, Ghanaians will see how good he is and how great he can be. He has skill, technique and a shot. Hey, our strikers don't have all three, do they? On the bench, I'll go for Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Andre Ayew. Quincy can change a game with his pace and skill, he just can't play 90 minutes. We remember Dede Ayew losing possession often when we see him play but he has a knack for fishing a goal and eye for creating some magic.

This is where I wish French Togo had joined Ghana in the 50's. Or Burkina Faso when they were still known as Upper Volta. Or the Ivory Coast when we discovered they could also speak some form of Twi. But when I think of the strikers they have I wish Ghana has, then I am reminding of Eric Bekoe. To me, Eric is our next Tony Yeboah. Eric who? Yes, that's the sad part, you haven't seen him play because for reasons known to Antoa Nyanma, he's not had a solid run playing for the Black Stars. This guy is a goal scorer, period. He was the goal king in Ghana for Kotoko and he's the goal king in Egypt right now. I've seen him play for Kotoko and he's the kind of guy who used to strike fear into his opponents. In Bekoe I trust, and I don't lose sleep over Mario Barwuah Balotelli. I'll like to see Bekoe start our next World Cup match with Asamoah Gyan alongside him. Coach Milovan Rajevac can keep his 4-2-3-1 foromation if he wants, he should just shift Gyan into the midfield and play Bekoe anyway. I can't think of a single flaw for Bekoe but we all know Gyan needs to exercise more composure when he gets a scoring opportunity. Junior Agogo comes with a different dimension as a striker and I am tempted to have him selected. Maybe he'll get a few fickle fans to support us, we all know, the Ghanaian girls are crazy over him. Till I see him play again, I vouch for Matthew Amoah and Dominic Adiyiah as subs.

So there is my tentative 23 man squad for the Black Stars

Winning eleven - Kingston; Paintsil, John Mensah, Vorsah, Sarpei; Kevin Boateng, Essien, Kwadwo Asamoah, Muntari; Bekoe, Asamoah Gyan.

Training eleven - Owu; Inkoom, Dickoh, Lee Addy, David Addy; Quincy, Annan, Buaben, Dede Ayew; Amoah, Adiyiah.

23rd man - Daniel Adjei.

Osee, osee, Black Stars ei, forward ever!
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