When the top stars of the great African nations converge in Gabon in a fortnight, Ghana will boast of its own after head coach Avram Grant named a full list of players to fly out to compete for the Africa Cup of Nations trophy.
From Asamoah Gyan through Andre Ayew to Jonathan Mensah, his reliable men have been called upon to seize the opportunity of winning a first AFCON title in more than three decades.
Ghana has been consistent in the tournament, making semi-final appearances in the last five tournaments, while finishing second twice.
Those tournaments – from 2008 – have seen the Stars march into stadiums with household names such as Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari. These days you can barely talk of players of the same ilk in the squad.
The team has been devoid of the quality it boasted of before; individually they have been frozen out of their respective clubs and do not start games as much, minutes have few and far between. Grant has not had much luck with injuries as well.
Since he was appointed the head coach of the Stars, the oft-befuddled tactician has had to deal with injuries also to his key cogs – Alfred Duncan, who has been growing in prowess, playing alongside Mubarak Wakaso in central midfield, has been injured in the past few months.
Some surprise exclusions from the list would include Leicester City’s Jeffrey Schlupp, who has been out of Claudio Ranieri’s side and Ghana Premier League’s rising star Latif Blessing, who failed to make the squad and add to Ghana’s local contingent travelling.
Fatau Dauda, another locally based player, who was in the provisional list that trained days prior to the final squad announcement, was also missing from the list. His experience at high international level sacrificed for the more youthful Richard Ofori of Wa All Stars.
In the 26-man squad released, some surprises include Ebenezer Ofori, Raphael Dwamena, Joseph Larweh and Bernard Tekpetey.
Three of these names are likely to miss out on the tournament when the Israeli trainer picks his final 23 players for the tournament. However, Edwin Gyimah would be a sure contender for a place on the flight back to Ghana, after suffering minimal injuries a car accident a few days ago. I have the feeling; he would not be risked in a crucial competition as this, especially as his role in the squad has been limited to the bench.
Should Dwamena miss the tournament, there’s sure to be gross discontent from Ghanaians who would relish a new star in the team after the generation of the Ayews and Gyan seems to be fading out somehow.
Grant’s tough task of winning the trophy for the West African country would be tested in their first game against Uganda on January 17 and his squad shows his determination to win. Not many surprises as his head is at stake and has very little time, if any, to experiment.
By Thierry Nyann|3news.com|Ghana