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Since the 15th of January, 2020 when the country was notified of Charles Kwabla Akonnor’s selection as Black Stars Head Coach, there’ve been many debates and predictions about what his Black Stars team would look like.
Ghanaians have wondered whether he would have the spine to drop renowned veterans such as Asamoah Gyan and Christian Atsu and put his faith in the numerous rising talents we have, or whether he would stick with the old guns and go for proven experience ahead of potential quality.
With the AFCON 2021 qualifier doubleheader against Sudan coming up next month there are many possible ins and outs in terms who stays and gets knocked out of the squad.
Black Stars captain Andre Ayew is a sure bet for the squad and not just because he is the leader of the team. The Swansea playmaker has managed an impressive 16-goal contributions in 32 games for the Welsh club this season, and head coach C.K Akonnor will rely on Dede’s experience and work ethic to help kickstart his reign in style.
Another Ayew who is guaranteed a selection should he stay fit is Andre’s little brother Jordan. The 28-year-old Crystal Palace striker is the London club’s top scorer with seven goals this season, winning the Player of the Month award in August and October, and was nominated for the Premier League Goal of the Month for December for his sublime strike against West Ham and will be looking to take his form into the Nations Cup qualifiers.
Mohammed Salisu has had an outstanding season for Real Valladolid this campaign. The centre back’s performances have been so impressive for the struggling Spanish side that he has been aggressively courted by titans Real Madrid. He has been one of the best African centre backs in Europe this season and will be a great asset for C.K Akonnor to have at his disposal.
Thomas Partey’s Man of the Match worthy performance against Liverpool in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie was just a microcosm of his stellar performances this season. The Odumase born defensive midfielder has been a citadel for Atletico Madrid, and at the offensive end he is also one goal away from matching his personal best of four, with thirteen games left. Ghanaians will be praying for him to consistently replicate his club form on the international stage, after an underwhelming AFCON 2019.
Mohammed Kudus is currently the most exciting prospect representing the Black Stars. The dexterous 19 year old playmaker has already scored eight goals and assisted one in seventeen games for Nordsjælland in the Danish Superliga, and has been a long time Manchester City target, with Everton and Liverpool recently rumoured to have joined the chase.
Kudus can play everywhere in midfield and in attack, and has already scored for the Black Stars, with the goal coming on his debut against South Africa. C. K Akonnor might look to him to spearhead the next generation of Black Stars.
Mubarak Wakaso on the flip side is one midfielder who might very well find himself out of the Black Stars squad for the AFCON 2021 qualifiers next month. The 29 year old veteran midfielder’s performances have been down in the doldrums this season after a Nations Cup tournament in the summer of 2019 in which he blew hot and cold. This led to Spanish club Deportivo Alaves offloading him this January to Jiangsu Suning F.C of China where he has yet to feature.
Torric Jibril of T.P Mazembe is another play who may be dropped by C.K Akonnor. The former Hearts of Oak prodigy has only managed a single league goal for T.P Mazembe since joining in 2019, and with the level of competition for a spot in the squad, it is very unlikely that he will make the cut. Maybe he should not have been in the previous squads at all.
Alfred Duncan is a player who may very well make a case for himself later this season as a player to be considered for future call-ups, but with just two appearances this season, the Sassuolo midfielder should quite frankly not be making the cut over other players in his position who have proven their worth this season.
Christopher Antwi-Adjei has been in dismal form for SC Paderborn 07 this season. The Germany born winger has scored just once and assisted twice for the German team in twenty three games this season, and may be one of the reasons they are currently bottom of the Bundesliga. He should be nowhere near new head coach C.K Akonnor’s team list for the upcoming qualifiers.
Shafiu Mumuni used to be one of the first home based names on anyone’s lips but he has had a rather disappointing season so far. The Ashanti Gold striker has only scored one goal this season, and with new faces set to come in at every position including the forward roles, the 24 year old will face an uphill battle to keep his place in the squad.
Jeffrey Schlupp missed the AFCON 2019 to injury but seems to have found his mojo once again. The 27 year old versatile Crystal Palace winger who can also play in fullback and up top has a point to prove for the Black Stars and will be looking to cement his place in the starting lineup if called up by head coach C.K Akonnor who must find a way of utilising his versatility much more than Kwesi Appiah did.
Yahya Mohammed has been exceptional for Aduana Stars in the Ghana Premier League this season. The striker has scored ten goals in eleven games thus far, and will be hoping his exploits in the local league will be enough to see him called up to the Black Stars squad. He is another player with a point to prove for the Black Stars, having never been called up for a major international tournament.
Elisha Owusu of Gent in Belgium is one player who definitely deserves a call up to the national team for the upcoming qualifiers. The 22 year old defensive midfielder has been a key cog in the Belgian club’s machine this season and has also shone on the European stage with 14 appearances in the Europa League this season. He will be a fantastic addition to C.K Akonnor’s side.
Lawrence Ati-Zigi has been in and out of the squad as the backup goalkeeper, but this season he has his numbers could throw up a battle with Richard Ofori for the starting spot between the sticks. The 23 year old shot stopper has been immense since his move from Sochaux to St. Gallen in January, and is one of the main reasons why the Swiss club are first in their league. He has not conceded a goal since making his debut for the club last month.
Osman Ibrahim of King Faisal is the final player on this list. The Babes’ striker has scored seven goals and assisted three in eleven games for the Kumasi based club this season, and will be hoping to be given the chance to replicate this form on the international stage for the Black Stars come next month.
There are lots of options for C.K Akonnor to choose from and it will be a headache to decide which players to keep, drop or pick. Ultimately it’s up to the ex-captain of the Black Stars to make the right calls. These are just my suggestions.
By Nene Afadzinu
The writer is an intern at TV3