The 2022 Fifa World Cup isn’t too far away now – just about a month to go – and head coaches of the competing 32 nations should be wrapping up preparations for the showpiece.
Hopes are high, quite reasonably, but some would do well to manage their expectations – like Ghana, one of the five African representatives looking to crack the Mundial’s semi-finals for the very first time.
The Black Stars don’t have much going for them at the moment, and the odds, consequently, aren’t looking too good.
Here are five reasons.
A TOUGH GROUP
There are quite a few contenders for the ‘group of death’ label at Qatar 2022, and Group H – where Ghana finds itself – makes a pretty strong case.
Facing Portugal, one of Europe’s best teams, two-time world champions Uruguay, and Asian giants South Korea, the Black Stars are really up against it. It doesn’t help that they are the national team rated lowest by Fifa going into this World Cup, does it?
They’ve done it before, as many die-hard fans of the Black Stars would be keen to remind you, but those memorable squads of 2006 and 2010 were strong in ways the current side isn’t – more on that later.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Ghana is the only team heading to Qatar with the head of its technical team not working in a full-time/substantive capacity, no?
Prior to now, in fact, Otto Addo had never led a first-team bench, having been limited to a brief stint as assistant manager at Borussia Dortmund, where he currently works as a ‘talent coach’.
Alright, then, back to the strength of the Ghana team itself: it’s just not there.
The squad is quite young – among the youngest at the tournament, you’ll see – and while there is nothing wrong with having youth in such abundance (the 2006 and 2010 squads were pretty young, too), the big headache is Addo’s failure to construct a cohesive collective out of the personnel available.
New faces are still being added to the team, and recent outings have exposed just how disjointed this team is. Clearly, Addo isn’t yet done with his work of moulding a formidable unit.
Would he, though?
You’d think that, by now, the Black Stars would have generated enough momentum to inspire hope of a big performance in Qatar.
But they haven’t – not with just two wins in their last dozen games, both of which have come after defeating sneaking past regional rivals Nigeria to reach the next World Cup.
Those victories were achieved against Madagascar and Nicaragua, teams currently ranked outside Fifa’s top 100; not the sort of boost you need before taking on three of the best 30 sides in the world in quick succession, is it?
There’s one more game, a friendly date with Switzerland just before the World Cup starts, with which Ghana would try to secure a last-minute spark. That ignition is long overdue but, at this advanced stage, is possibly beyond them.
You can’t win games, of course, without scoring goals, and Ghana just hasn’t been doing enough of that of late.
There are goals all over the team, true, with Mohammed Kudus (especially in the false nine position that now seems him thrive at Ajax Amsterdam), Thomas Partey (if he stays fit, a likelihood we know better than to count on), and the Ayew brothers (Andre and Jordan) all capable of chipping in at any point.
That randomness of firepower, needless to say, is hardly reassuring.
Nothing short of divine intervention – which the Ghana Football Association (GFA) appears keen to invoke anyway – would be needed to power the Black Stars’ ambitions at the World Cup, should all these issues not be sorted out in good time.