Ghana may be missing out on the summer World Cup in Russia, but the Black Stars are definitely not sleeping.
Coach James Kwesi Appiah is high up on a rebuilding exercise as he seeks to assemble a team capable of ending a 37-year wait for an Africa Cup of Nations title next year, as well as make a return to the World Cup in 2022.
Ahead of Thursday’s friendly against World cup-bound Iceland, following Wednesday’s 2-0 triumph over Japan, we look at the men Appiah should build the new era around.
Surely, no player has had as much influence on the Black Stars in recent months than the Atletico Madrid man. Since making his international debut at Mauritius in 2016 and claiming a starting role at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, Partey has stepped up as the man ready to carry the Black Stars on his shoulders for the coming years.
It is not just about his six goals in his last five appearances, as his general influence on and off the pitch is easy to see. He captained the team for the first time in Wednesday’s friendly victory over Japan and had a goal to cap a wonderful display. With a good form at club level and age on his side too, Ghana looks to have found a midfield maestro in the 24-year-old.
The playmaker, who is on his way out of Italian giants Juventus, has not played for Ghana since an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Uganda in September 2014. But after four years of the self-imposed sabbatical, the 29-year-old looks set for a return, having stated his desire for a comeback amid talks with Black Stars coach Appiah.
With his injury troubles seemingly behind him, and a new club – likely Inter Milan – on the cards, the midfielder looks set for a recall for September’s Afcon qualifier against Kenya. His wealth of experience at both international and club levels will be valuable. He commands respect and a midfield partnership with Partey looks good too. Age may not be on his side, but he’s capable of being around until Qatar 2022.
In the absence of Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew and Harrison Afful, Amartey captained Ghana in the double-header against Uganda and Saudi Arabia last October. After the games, public verdict was that the 23-year-old looked capable of wielding the armband permanently.
On his second Ghana stint, Appiah has tried a few players in his bid to get the best pair for his central defence. When fit, Amartey has always been a constant. The Leicester City man’s form has seemingly been affected by his club troubles. But if he can fix that, he will be key for the national outfit for many years.
On the biggest of stages, Atsu has never disappointed for Ghana, regardless of what may be going on with him at club level. He’s always emerged as the man for the big occasions, and his commitment and dedication has never been in doubt.
At 26, the Newcastle United man still has a lot to offer, having already shined at three Afcon tournaments and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
On the face of it, it sounds ridiculous that any one will suggest Jordan Ayew, not Andre, as a key man for Ghana’s rebuilding exercise. The 26-year-old does not have many Black Stars fans, having been accused of inconsistency, underperformance and, above all, selfishness.
But on the back of an outstanding season in England for Swansea City, coupled with the search for a long-term replacement for Ghana’s main striker Asamoah Gyan, Jordan looks like Appiah’s best option. That Richmond Boakye-Yiadom, Raphael Dwamena and new boys Emmanuel Boateng and Kwasi Okyere Wriedt have little international experience should force Appiah towards Jordan, even if they are not the best of friends.