Ahead of Congo v Ghana on Tuesday, Gary Al-Smith assesses the state of the Black Stars selection regime and offers some truths about untouchable players and meritocracy.
Players do not select themselves for national team assignments. We are told that players are selected based on merit, form and experience needed for a particular game.
A combination of the three lead to a callup of a player, all other things being equal.
However, the current national team setup is unwieldy, with an unfair mix of experienced players who don’t deserve to be there, others who must be there but shouldn’t start, and young players who aren’t being given a fair chance.
The big boys
Let’s begin with Asamoah Gyan.
He has been injury prone for at least three years now. That he is Ghana’s best striker is not in doubt. But he has reached a point in his career where his abilities have to be managed.
Avram Grant, in his final matches as boss, didn’t use Gyan for 90 minutes for a reason. The experience the striker brings is invaluable, but at the moment, Ghana will get the best of him as a squad player.
His form is good, but his body is not in shape for constant 90 minute engagements.
Another player who shouldn’t be starting for Ghana at the moment is Andre Ayew.
I mentioned this last week, that I suspected he had become a bit heavy. This was after watching his games for West Ham so far.
Dede is not in form. Whether that’s because the Hammers are generally not playing well or the player himself is off key is another matter.
In fact, can anyone remember when he last had an 8/10 game in Black Stars colours? Ghana v Tunisia, in 2012 readily springs to mind. And then maybe 2014 vs Germany in Brazil.
I cannot say he has become complacent, but the older Ayew definitely needs competition. He needs someone to have a brilliant run of games in his position to shake him up.
Jonathan Mensah had a decent game on Friday, but that was because Congo had (correctly) targeted the right back as Ghana’s weak link. Otherwise Mensah, who has also not been stellar in national colours, would have had problems against Thievy Bifouma and Dore Ferebory.
I’m excited Kwesi Appiah called up younger players recently. But you know what? The Black Stars needs these younger players to be given a fair crack at competing with their experienced counterparts.
Did you notice how Harrison Afful played when brought from the bench? His body language was of one who had a point to prove. Imagine if Attamah had excelled at right back. That could have been the end of Afful as a guaranteed starter.
John Boye. Jonathan Mensah. Mubarak Wakaso. Emmanuel Agyeman-Badu. They all need competition.
And then there is Jordan Ayew. It is a pity that Ghana does not have rip-roaring options to fall on in his position. Had Ghana a player like Aubameyang, or Sadio Mane, Jordan won’t start as a first choice option.
Richmond Boakye-Yiadom has scored seven goals in Europa League qualifiers. Not just that, but he has been one of Ghana’s improved forwards. Why call him up if you can’t use him when he is needed?
It’s not rocket science to start him ahead of Jordan, or pair them and bring Gyan as a sub to finish off the opposition.
Time is running out for this generation
Kwesi Appiah was given the job again earlier this year to ensure his talent for spotting youth is blended with available experienced players who deserve a place.
For the moment, that mix isn’t working well.
Ordinarily, Ghana’s 2009 Under 20 World Cup team should have been peaking and dominating Africa by now.
To be fair, that team has been at the center of Ghana’s near-misses since 2010: three semi-final finishes, and two runner-up placings in AFCONs as well as two World Cup qualifications.
The law of averages suggest that Ghana should have won an AFCON by now, with our recent record. But a combination of factors (which I won’t go into here) have ensured that hasn’t happened.
Long story short, Ghana’s Black Stars are not as good as they would like to think.
Not good enough
The Black Stars as it is, don’t deserve a place at Russia 2018.
It would be an injustice for them to go ahead of Uganda or Egypt, two teams which are more organised and seem far more ready in every way.
Gary Al-Smith works for the Multimedia Group. This piece was first published on Gary’s Facebook page.