The Black Stars of Ghana reached the semifinal of the Africa Cup of Nations in January but the overall outcome of the year 2017 was highlighted by the Fifa World Cup disappointment.
The senior national team started the year with Ghana’s 21st participation at the Africa Cup of Nations hosted in Gabon and ended it with a home draw against Egypt in the World Cup qualifiers but what was the real 2017 story of the national soccer team?
Another Afcon, same old story
Avram Grant went unbeaten to qualify for the 2017 Afcon. The Ghana team was based in Port-Gentil and started the tournament on a bright note, winning the first two group games against Uganda and Mali before experiencing a blip with a loss to Egypt by a Mohamed Salah 11th minute free-kick effort.
Ghana finished runners-up in the group and went on to beat DR. Congo 2-1 in the quarter-final clash in the Northern city of Oyem on January 29 with the Ayew brothers – Jordan and Andre – scoring the goals for the Black Stars.
Ghana then set up a mouth-watering semifinal tie against Hugo Broos’ Cameroon on February 2 at the Stade de Franceville in the South-Eastern part of Gabon. Asamoah Gyan, almost always battling with injuries, sat out this game as Avram Grant kept faith in the attacking pair of Jordan Ayew and Andre Ayew – the same pair that scored the goals to bring the team to this stage while also maintaining the embattled goalkeeper Razak Brimah who was the subject of an abusive video firing back at critiquing Ghanaians.
However the end story was not going to be the same as the Oyem’s. Cameroon won by two goals to nil and went on to defeat The Pharoahs of Egypt in the final to clinch the ultimate title.
The disappointed Black Stars were back in Port-Gentil and again lost the third place match to Burkina Faso before leaving the central African country empty-handed , even more disappointed.
Avram Grant departure
Calls for the GFA to severe ties with the former Chelsea manager after this latest tournament failure of the national team increased and looking at the results and the type of job he’s done his position was always going to be untenable . Luckily for the GFA, the contract between the association and the manager had expired at this time making it the more easier to part ways with him.
The GFA now turned to former Black Stars boss Kwesi Appiah – sacked in September 2014 – to offer him the job again after a successful interview according to the association.
World Cup failure
After the Afcon heartbreak, the team focused on the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualification series where they had started badly picking just a point in the opening two games against Uganda (0-0 in Tamale) and Egypt (0-2 ) before even going into the Afcon, all under former manager Avram Grant. Despite this bad start, Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi in particular repeated many times that a qualification was still possible. Whilst others waited to see how this was going to happen, many are those who raised the red flag of impossibility.
The new era of Kwasi Appiah started with a 5-0 2019 Afcon qualification spanking of Ethiopia at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium back on 11 June, 2017. But what followed was undesirable. The Black Stars lost two successive international friendly games against Mexico and the USA on June 29th and July 1 respectively before returning home to draw the important World Cup qualifier to Congo on September 1.
With Egypt losing 1-0 at Uganda the previous day and staying on 6 points after 3 games, Ghana still on 1 point at third place, had the chance to go on 4 points with a home win but that opportunity was blown away by a solid Congolese opposition who brought hell to the Baba Yara Stadium.
Appiah still was confident.
“It is not all over. We are still fighting till the end. We did everything to win but it was unfortunate we didn’t,” said the gaffer after a disappointing 1-1 draw with Congo in Kumasi.
Kwasi Appiah and his players made massive amends in the reverse game in Brazzaville winning 5-1 but this result had no serious impact on Ghana’s chances of making it to Russia because Egypt beat Uganda in Cairo on the same day in a late kick-off to go 2 points clear at the top.
In the end, it was Egypt that qualified from the group, Uganda didn’t make it either but they finish as the second best team in the group and the Black Stars failed to win a single home game – drawing all three.
The year of Thomas Partey, Black Stars 2017 top goalscorer
Unfancied Thomas Partey scored the most goals for the Black Stars in the year 2017. The 5 goals of the Ateltico Madrid man came as follows. A goal and a hat trick against Congo on September 1 and September 5 respectively and a strike versus Saudi Arabia on October 10th. This was certainly his year having also broken into the first team of the Spanish team starting key and important games.
Next to Partey is Asamoah Gyan on 3 goals. Even at the decline of his career, Gyan proved to be an important goalscorer for the nation scoring against Mali, Ethiopia and the USA.
Andre Ayew, Boakye Yiadom, Raphael Dwamena all scored 2 goals each whilst Jordan Ayew, Ebenezer Ofori, John Boye, Kasim Nuhu,Edwin Gyasi scored a goal each. There was also an own goal for Ghana in the Saudi Arabia friendly.
What 2018 have for the Black Stars ?
Ghana’s next competitive date is a trip to Kenya on 23 March for Day 2 of the 2019 Afcon qualifiers and as we know the World Cup will be played in June / July, the Black Stars who were in Germany 2006, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 will have to sit back and watch their colleagues treat the world to the 21st Fifa World Cup during this period before welcoming Sierra Leone in September for Day 3 of the Afcon qualification series.
Looking at the outcome, we can say that it was such an unpleasant year for the Black Stars.