The starting line up for tonight’s game is out. Michael Essien will lead the Black Stars out to face the Dutch who finalised their 23-man squad ahead of the game.This match is an important test for the Black Stars ahead of final selections. Ghana previously played a farewell match against a vastly inferior opposition and dominated.
This match will be a more accurate measure of our players’ strengths and weaknesses. The Orantje test will tell us a few things about the form of the players as well as hint at any variations in tactics, formations, preferences for certain personnel etc. Among some of the questions I’ll be looking for clues on is what does Kwesi Appiah have up his sleeves tactically. By now, everyone knows Appiah’s favored formation is the 4-4-2 but as we saw in the last World Cup, there are moments in a match that call for variations. Friendly matches like these are a chance to put what has been learned in practice to the test. Will we see any of these variations? What is Appiah’s preferred central defensive pairing? Who are the fringe players who may fill out the final roster? Also, who does he want as his full backs?
Jeffrey Schlupp will fill in at left back in what is his final opportunity to make Appiah look good. A very good performance and the Leicester City man will not only be selected in Kwesi Appiah’s final 23-man squad but he’ll likely be starting against the US.
In a similar situation is Stromgosdet goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey. He is a regular for his team and there is no reason why he wouldn’t be making a serious push to start Ghana’s first World Cup match. While Appiah is certain to take three goalkeepers to Brazil, Fatau Dauda’s lack of regular playing time means his sharpness may not be at its optimum opening the door for one of his colleagues to snatch the starting job.
A strong performance by Samuel Inkoom and he might get Appiah to rethink any notions of him as a bench/fringe player. Christian Atsu and Jordan Ayew seemed to click moving forward in the match against the Dream Team. Will they be able to dazzle the Dutch defense in similar ways? Ayew’s loan spell at Sochaux renewed his confidence. He was full of running up front and was clearly match fit.
Rabiu Mohammed has had to fend off rumors of injury. Being named in the starting line up should allay any fears. Yet, his long recovery and the severity of his injury means that he is only now rounding into form. The presence of Afriyie Acquah and the return of some veterans to the squad has meant that it is no longer a given that once Rabiu isn’t injured he starts.
Michael Essien’s quality in the past has not been in doubt. He has transitioned from a player who has made up for his loss of speed and power by using his vast experience to out think his opponents. Still, this is a player who has shown the ability to play full 90 minute matches at the highest levels sparingly. Yet, his versatility and having him as an option to shut a game down when your team is up 1-0 is invaluable. Today is a chance perhaps to remind us of his assets.
Win or lose, this match should have many lessons for us.