Ghana will take on South Africa next week with a mix of the old and new, familiar and unknown. The World Cup quarter finalists have retained several players integral to their success during the Mundial.
But Coach Milovan Rajevac who is reportedly close to renewing his contract with Ghana has included a few new faces as the squad that affectionately became known as ‘Baghana Baghana’ returns to the venue of their triumph. In what will be a homecoming of sorts, the 18-man squad will be composed of recognizable faces like Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew, Kevin Prince Boateng, Anthony Annan, Kwadwo Asamoah and Asamoah Gyan.
Some of the more conspicuous omissions are Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah who were inconsistent contributors in the Stars’ campaign this South African winter. Muntari in particular had a mixed competition marked by a well-publicized confrontation with Rajevac. The most vivid memory of him in the end was one of redemption as his wonder strike put Ghana ahead at half time against Uruguay. Add Hans Adu Sarpei and John Paintsil to the list of absentees and you’ve got the makings of a changing squad for the future. Two young players who are very much a part of Rajevac’s plans and were originally invited were Isaac Vorsah and Prince Tagoe. Unfortunately, Vorsah’s brother died after the competition and the two Hoffenheim FC players have only now joined the German club in their preseason preparations.
The match will represent an opportunity for the Stars to say thanks to the South African public for their support in the just-ended World Cup. But a thank you tour alone it is not. Ghana Football Association spokesperson Randy Abbey says a full strength South Africa will be an important test when the Stars start their qualification to the African Cup of Nations.
Abbey says, “the overriding principle is that we are playing the Nations Cup qualifiers in September and our first opponent is Swaziland and they have a similar style to South Africa.” Acknowledging that South Africa is a stronger foe than the Swazis, he added that South Africa would be a good opponent.”
Unfortunately the South African public will again be robbed of the qualities of superstar Michael Essien who missed the World Cup due to injury. He has been excused as he continues to make his way back to full fitness.
An off the radar inclusion will be Cofie Bekoe of Petrojet Sporting Club in Egypt. Leading up to the World Cup, another Bekoe, Eric was on the lips of many Ghanaian fans. But on a scouting trip to see Eric, Rajevac in a twist of fate was left more impressed with Cofie. Little is known about Cofie Bekoe but he is an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal. He is a product of Abedi Pele’s Nania Football Club.
Late last week, the South African Football Association was concerned that the Ghanaians would bring a much-weakened side. SAFA Chief Executive Leslie Sedibe was quoted as saying, “the contract stipulates stiff penalties for Ghana should they renege on the guarantee to bring the nucleus of the team.”
Abbey says talk that Ghana would bring an entirely new squad without many of its World Cup team is false.
The squad list should put paid to fears by the South African authorities. And barring any withdrawals due to injury or other unforeseen circumstances, the 18-man squad is as follows.
GKS: Richard Kingson, Daniel Agyei,
Defenders: John Mensah, Jonathan Mensah, Samuel Inkoom, Harrison Afful, Lee Addy,
Midfielders: Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew, Anthony Annan, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Kwadwo Asamoah, Cofie Bekoe, Bernard Yao Kumordzi, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu
Strikers: Asamoah Gyan, Dominic Adiyiah, Yaw Antwi, Haminu Draman