Avram Grant’s freshest list of call-ups makes for interesting analysis, with quite a few headlines standing out
By: Sammie Frimpong
Ghana host Rwanda early next month at the Accra Sports Stadium in the last of the Black Stars‘ 2017 Cup of Nations group qualifiers. And though a ticket to Gabon has already been secured, head coach Avram Grant’s bunch of picks for the contest provides plenty of headlines, some of which are discussed below:
NOTHING BEING TAKEN FOR GRANTED
Grant wasn’t obliged to name what could pass for his strongest squad against the Amavubi. Ghana could lose and still finish first, four points above everyone else in Group H, but this apparently is no stroll for Grant. It’s not just a first competitive loss post-Afcon 2017 that the Israeli is keen to avoid, though. Qualification for Russia 2018 resumes in October, with a visit by Uganda — nestled beside Rwanda in east Africa — the first test, before Ghana treks to face fellow heavyweight Egypt. More than anything, then, the September 3 date doubles as a warm-up for those future duels, thus the serious approach Grant may have adopted.
THE MORE, THE MERRIER
Ghana’s squad is growing increasingly diverse in composition. The latest roster draws its material from 22 clubs (possibly 23, were Daniel Amartey and Jeffrey Schlupp not both playing for English champions Leicester City) scattered across 15 countries and four continents. Coming together, the contingent forms a beautiful mosaic which could only enrich the national pool. Fault Grant all you want for whatever reason but he certainly is casting his net considerably wide, even if the faces aren’t all necessarily new.
GYAN ON THE BRINK
It’s been nine months since Asamoah Gyan last played for Ghana, doing so in both legs of his country’s opening 2018 Fifa World Cup qualification double-header with Comoros. His most recent — and 48th — international goal came a few games prior in June 2015 when he struck twice in the Stars‘ 7-1 home mauling of Mauritius in their first Afcon 2017 qualifying Group H fixture. Against Rwanda, with the latter campaign already successfully navigated in his prolonged injury-enforced absence, the Baby Jet returns to Grant’s set-up, seeking to mark the occasion in style. And there’d be no finer way to do so than by fetching the pair of goals which would take him to a half-century of Ghana strikes. Whether or not that figure — though impressive — would represent a national all-time scoring record is still debatable, but it will definitely prove a remarkable landmark reached in what would be only Gyan’s 96th cap.
It has become the norm for every Ghana squad to include at least one home-based goalkeeper. From Sammy Adjei and Daniel Agyei to Ernest Sowah and Fatau Dauda, the slot has been passed around quite a few times but, with in-form Wa All Stars No.1 Richard Ofori the latest to pick it up, that game of musical chairs should cease for a while. Dauda seems to have been knocked out in the long-term by returnee Adam Kwarasey, and Ofori’s consistently good displays for the Ghana Premier League leaders have seen him seize the advantage. It’s a privilege he shouldn’t let slip anytime soon.
WHO REPLACES AYEW?
Andre Ayew’s thigh injury last Monday on his Premier League debut for West Ham United was a late blow to Grant’s plans. There would, of course, be little difficulty replacing the £20.5m man on the pitch — there’s that much quality among the group invited. It is Ayew’s role as the team’s unofficial leader — forget the fact that Gyan will reclaim the armband — which isn’t so easy to fill. The void will exist, too, over Ghana’s next few international games, hence the need to find a quick, even if merely short-term, replacement. It would be interesting to see who steps up to the plate.