Hope Springs Eternal in Jordan’s Feet

Will Brazil see Jordan Ayew emerge from his elder brother's shadow?

Will Brazil see Jordan Ayew emerge from his elder brother’s shadow? Photo courtesy AP

The Black Stars beat South Korea last night emphatically. 4-0. Jordan Ayew came on earlier than he would have expected, in the third minute after an injury to Majeed Waris and scored a hat trick. He clearly grabbed the headlines.

Jurgen Klinsmann was reported to be in the stands and I’m sure he will have gone home with many insights. Chief among them is that Ghana’s attack can be ruthless if you let your guard down.

He will also be befuddled. I have never thought of Kwesi Appiah as a chess player but perhaps it is time to give him his due. The joke is truly on us. For the first time since the 2013 African Cup of Nations, Kwadwo Asamoah started the match as a left back. Prior to the game I dreaded the thought. As a friend said to me, it’s criminal that his attacking talent has to take a backseat to his makeshift defending. His performance against South Korea was encouraging though and I’ve been brought kicking and screaming to the realization that he is likely going to play and might even inspire our progress to the next round.

With the help of Andre Ayew the left side of the defense was solid. The central defensive pairing of Jonathan Mensah and John Boye also performed well overall. It took a while for them to settle though and the South Koreans nearly took advantage of uncertain and sometimes careless defending in the first 30 minutes of the match. Some last ditch blocks of goal-bound shots by the Koreans frayed Ghanaian nerves.

Jordan Ayew’s deflected shot nestled into the goal however and after 11 minutes we were opportunistically ahead. Despite the initial threat of the Koreans, Ghana had sprung a counter attack to the delight of coach Appiah and we were ahead. It was a goal, which I thought would do well for Ayew’s confidence. Little did I know he had more in him. Whatever he ate before the match, Popeye’s spinach my guess, he better repeat ahead of every one of our games.

Jordan’s play for me was not surprising though. On a loan spell at Sochaux and under the guidance of Herve Renard, Ayew showed the qualities that have dared some to say he could be an even bigger star than his brother. If the first goal had a bit of luck, the second was clinical. After picking the ball from just outside the box, he picked his spot and rifled in a low hard shot into the corner. Accurate and powerful, the Korean keeper floundered. The third goal was for me the pick of the goals and showed what I’ve always seen in Jordan. His movement off defenders’ shoulders is something else. Much more experienced strikers struggle to lose defenders in the box and the most gifted do it by instinct. Jordan’s natural feel for the game came through in that moment.


In the first half, the Stars appeared more comfortable playing the ball backwards. It was as though the midfielders and defenders were programmed to only kick backwards. That invited pressure from the quick Koreans and kept us on the back foot. Against the US, who pressure high up the field, it could be a dangerous tendency.

The first half performance alarmed me defensively. We were a far cry defensively from the team that ended the last World Cup. The cover from the midfield wasn’t there and the right full back position showed weakness. In the 26th minute, there was a particularly humorous moment when Rabiu Mohammed and Ayew collided. It was almost emblematic of the confusion defensively in the half.

Kwadwo Asamoah is a much better forward than defender. He didn’t attack much on the flanks but on the couple of occasions when he did his skill shone through.

This was a good test against World Cup opposition prior to the opening match. As we wait for more information on Majeed Waris’ injury, Appiah can take solace in the notion that we have adequate replacements in every position on the field.

A Defeat of Many Parts

Ghanaian coach has some important decisions to make

Ghanaian coach has some important decisions to make

I have been meaning to write a post on the Black Stars last match, the friendly against the Dutch since Sunday morning. While I dawdled, others beat me to it. Time and again.

The special one has even gone so far as to write off the team’s chances at the World Cup.

Predictions are a risky business in normal times. They are even riskier when talking about a team whose starting XI in the first match against the US we are unsure of.

People conveniently forget that prior to the last Mundial, then coach Milovan Rajevac was called all manner of names for daring to lose a friendly match prior to the competition. He maintained that he knew what he was doing and the team would peak at the right time.

Some of us incurable optimists can only hope that we will peak at the right time in Brazil.

Nevertheless, even optimists have moments of clarity and the evidence of last weekend’s friendly raises some questions. It was an abnormal match. The Dutch clearly started with a strong line up while Ghana’s was a mish mash of potential starters and players on the fringe. Therefore, an assessment of the match comes with many qualifications. A prediction based on it can come off as unserious. Still, one might pose questions.

Two years into his reign, Kwesi Appiah has neither found a reliable pair of hands nor a defensive system that adequately protects our keepers.

Adam Kwarasey could have let in three goals by half time and it wouldn’t have been his fault. Yet, we would likely have blamed him and called for Fatau Dauda or Stephen Adams. By the end of the match, with the score a respectable 1-0 and Kwarasey having made some alert saves, he seemed to be in the lead for the position. Goalkeepers need repetitions to build confidence. Hopefully by the next friendly against South Korea, Appiah would have made a firm decision on his starting goalkeeper and will stick with him.

Another problem area that every keen follower of the team can see is in central defence. In South Africa four years ago, the Black Stars were a solid defensive unit, less likely to concede than not. Rajevac’s philosophy seemed to be he would prefer not to concede than to score. He obviously took the lessons from the friendlies and qualification matches and relied on the 5-4-1 system to shore up his defence. Appiah’s much more open 4-4-2 system may create a few more chances per game and may create more opportunities on average but will an open system suffice at a World Cup where goals always come at a premium?

There are bright spots though and possible solutions to our problems. First, Afriyie Acquah looks like the real deal. He impressed in his short time on the pitch. He is where Michael Essien was at his peak. A player with boundless energy and a dynamism that sees him go from box to box, Acquah covers a lot of ground and helps protect the back four. After a stellar season in Italy, he is clearly primed to take the World by stage. If Appiah will let him.

I have heard many complain about Kwadwo Asamoah’s form for Ghana. I still think he can be one of Ghana’s best players. However, I don’t know that Appiah has defined a role for him that allows him to flourish. He has found himself on the bench, at left back, as a left winger and in the middle of the pitch during Appiah’s reign. At Juventus, he is largely confined to the left forward position constantly tracking back to help in defence. Where does Appiah want him to play?

Looking back now on reports on the friendlies prior to the the last World Cup, it is uncanny how quickly our collective doubts can give way to relief and pure ecstasy. Eight days to the start of the tournament, one can only hope that our reflexive pessimism will be washed away come June 14.

Stars Take On Dutch Oranje


Essien captains Stars tonight

Essien captains Stars tonight

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.

I’m excited.



Dream Team See Stars

Ghana's Christian Atsu scores the second goal against Niger

Christian Atsu was in dazzling form against the Dream Team

The Black Stars gave fans at the Accra Sports Stadium the gift of hope on Friday night in a match billed as a farewell game.And what a love fest it turned out to be.

The opposition, billed the ‘Dream Team’, was appropriately weak. The ‘dreamers’ were clearly hurriedly assembled to make the numbers on the pitch even and it showed. On account of the first few minutes they needed to at least outnumber the Black Stars players by a factor of two to have stood a chance. The disparity in class was evident from the opening whistle.

Christian Atsu’s feet were barely warm after a rather long pre-match ceremony when he beat his marker and fired off his first of three first half goals. It was a quick movement followed by a stunningly precise left footed shot from a difficult angle. Atsu’s twinkling feet dazed the static defence of the Dream Team and after 11 minutes the nightmarish evening was only getting worse. Jordan Ayew and Atsu added two more goals with Atsu completing his hat trick mid way through the first half. The Stars went into half time 5 goals up with Albert Adomah adding a fifth before recess.

The second half was pedestrian, the result of numerous changes. Those who came in must figure they are more likely than not to be picked in the final squad though. Self preservation therefore was paramount. That didn’t stop Sulley Muntari belting one of his trademark free kicks into the bottom right corner before the game ended. The Dream Team had managed to pull a goal back before that goal but by then the outcome had long become inevitable.

Coach Kwesi Appiah’s downplayed the match’s importance suggesting after the match that he wasn’t making any assessments on the basis of this match. For a man who continuously took notes throughout the match, that would be surprising.

He would have been pleased to see the sharpness of his forwards. It will be the defence that may give him pause. Fatau Dauda came on in the second half. He had to rush out of his goal twice, occasions which against better opposition may have resulted in goals. Given that this was clearly inferior opposition, those are the moments Appiah will be concerned with.

All in all, this was a match we won’t remember next week. We’re feeling good now but it remains to be seen how far form in an exhibition match can travel.



Fans Say Farewell to Stars

This gallery contains 16 photos.

  The Black Stars play a select local side at the Accra Sports Stadium today. The match has been billed as a ‘we are saying goodbye to the fans before we start our European camp and vice versa’ match. Judging by the numbers of fans at yesterday afternoon’s practice session, the organizers have read the […]

Appiah Selects Ghana’s Best for Brazil

Afriyie Acquah hopes 'come rain or shine', his current form sees him in Brazil

Afriyie Acquah hopes ‘come rain or shine’, his current form sees him in Brazil

The number ’30’ was oft-quoted yesterday ahead of the announcement of the provisional Black Stars squad for Brazil. With thirty days to the World Cup many media reports suggested Kwesi Appiah was going to announce a thirty-man squad.

Appiah named twenty-six with three more cuts expected after two weeks of training camp. Some outlets had handicapped players like Anthony Annan, John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah as some of the players that would make the team. They didn’t. There was a clamor for local players in some media. Appiah obliged by including Stephen Adams, a goalkeeper but no more. Jeffrey Schlupp and David Accam did not feature in Ghana’s qualifying campaign but got called.

Appiah picked a squad after months of observing his players often at close range, traveling through Europe where almost all are based. The names suggest that it has been a deliberate and honest process. There was no wishful thinking when it came to injured players or players on the fringes. He has attempted to mix young and in form players with experienced ones who might not be playing as regularly as when they were in their prime but whose presence at key points could be invaluable.

Four years ago, Milovan Rajevac promoted en bloc the core members of the World Cup winning U-20 squad to play at the African Cup of Nations. Because of a combination of injuries, players not on form or unwilling to play and indiscipline, he didn’t take much of a gamble in promoting players who months earlier had accomplished a remarkable feat while showing a competitive spirit and maturity. With little pressure and fewer expectations than usual, they reached the African Cup of Nations final. Going into the World Cup that year, Rajevac ostensibly had his squad filled out by the time he announced it. There weren’t going to be many shocks.

This squad has been formed out of different circumstances. There has been turnover since Appiah took over at key positions. Our entire defensive line (goalkeepers included) has been in flux with the central defensive position particularly worrisome. Add the defensive midfield position and that firm spine, a key element of our past successes is absent.

Our goalkeepers all have deep flaws. Ghana’s number one Fatau Dauda is struggling for games in South Africa. It is less than ideal to have your goalkeeper stuck on a bench, unable to get ‘live reps’ from games to keep him sharp. Adam Kwarasey could be our number one by that measure alone. Yet, when he has been given the responsibility, his self belief deserts him. Stephen Adams played in the CHAN and excelled. Brazil is no CHAN. If there ever was the need to clone a human being, this surely is it.

At right back, Appiah named Daniel Opare and Samuel Inkoom. At left back, he has listed Harrison Afful and Schlupp. Schlupp is the latest candidate to solve our left back problem and might be an inspired choice. Four years ago, Hans Adu Sarpei played as a left back and while not flashy filled the role admirably. Appiah will be hoping Schlupp’s conversion from striker will pay similar dividends to Sarpei. We better hope the Schlupp experiment works  if for nothing but to squelch the suicidal notion of Kwadwo Asamoah as a left back.

It will be interesting to see if all four full backs remain in the final squad. Given Afful’s versatility and ability to play on either side and Michael Essien’s ability to deputise in an emergency situation either at right back or central defence, I’d be a bit surprised if Daniel Opare and Samuel Inkoom both make it.

Central midfield is a hard one to call. Anthony Annan was a fixture for so long that when he lost his place and Michael Essien’s injuries piled up, there was instability. Emmanuel Agyemang Badu should have stepped up and owned that place but clearly he hasn’t been able to. Rabiu Mohammed was the heir but a terrible injury last year set him back. In comes Afriyie Acquah whose rise at Italian club Parma has been written about extensively. You don’t play 26 games in a league that treasures defensive discipline and instincts if you’re not good. For a former Italian national team coach no less. Albert Adomah is a player who has always flown under the radar. He is not flashy and does not look for the limelight. He just looks happy to be around. Often, squads for tournaments need players like that who are content even if they are asked to be water carriers.

Little is known about David Accam but if fellow Right to Dream graduant, Majid Waris’ performances are anything to go by then Accam has the right education. Curiously, he has been listed as a left midfielder, a position Mubarak Wakaso and Andre Ayew are not going to relinquish anytime soon. Sulley Muntari and Kwadwo Asamoah’s experience at that position means there is ample cover even in an emergency. Accam will likely be competing with players like Jordan Ayew and Albert Adomah for those final spots on the plane to Brazil.

All in all, the squad is balanced and few  can complain about the selections. Appiah is clearly aware of his side’s deficiencies and has selected players he hopes will fill certain voids. A few weeks in camp and in friendly matches and they will all reveal how right his selections are.









An improbable 5-0 defeat to Egypt will see fans incredulous

The road to Brazil continues for the Black Stars as players assemble in Turkey for a two-week camp.

The aftermath of Ghana’s “beyond our wildest dreams” thrashing of Egypt’s Pharoes has been dominated by talk of the safety of our players and officials in Cairo. Admittedly, Cairo is not the most serene place on earth right now, with the prospect for upheaval seemingly a thrown stone away. The unpredictability did not prevent FIFA from sanctioning Cairo so barring a change of heart, Ghana’s focus has to remain on the pitch at the Air Defense stadium.

The Stars’ emphatic victory gives them a lot of breathing room. They would have to lose by an impossible sounding 5-0 to snatch defeat from the jaws of qualification. Stranger things have happened yes but given the caliber of players Kwesi Appiah will choose from, there should be no fairytale for the Pharoes.

The fan in me says emphatically, there is absolutely no way this will happen but journalistic training requires a deeper reflection. Could it happen? Men can be turned to women, eclipses occur from time to time,  so never say never. What could make the Stars suffer such a nightmare? Refereeing, bad play, the sky falling down, the 30,000 fans threatening the Stars with their lives if they don’t allow the Egyptians to score and oh Armageddon.

Barring any combination of these things, we should begin our crash Portuguese course, pack our bags, and wait for June/July 2014 where the Black Stars will attempt to shine for the third World Cup in a row.

Missing Link Forces Ayews to the Sidelines

All is not well between the Ayew brothers and Black Stars management

All is not well between the Ayew brothers and Black Stars management

Marseille stars Andre Ayew and his brother Jordan have temporarily taken a break from the senior national team, the Black Stars. In two separate letters signed by Andre and Jordan, they outlined various reasons why they need the time off.

As is typical of such events, the immediate reaction is to question the patriotism of the players. Next is to point out how selfish they are, a sentiment punctuated by saying ‘we don’t need them’, ‘they should go’ and so on. As far as I am concerned many of the reactions are emotional and prevent us from seeing the real issues. It’s like the jilted womaniser whose selective amnesia prevents him from acknowledging how his ways have forced his girlfriend to the sidelines.

From the moment Jordan Ayew joined his brother in the Black Stars, it was inevitable that they would be inextricably linked. In the minds of Ghanaians they are identical if not siamese twins. Yet, both players must be looked at differently.

Jordan Ayew was not even invited to the pre-tournament camp with coach Appiah saying he was dropped for ‘footballing reasons‘. For Marseille’s player of the month for November 2012, this was apparently too hard to take causing some psychological trauma.

Many tried to read meaning into Jordan’s exclusion including that Appiah wanted to break up the duo. The reality is that while Jordan’s form has been good for his club he hasn’t quite translated that to club form so perhaps that was excusable. From his letter, it is clear Jordan is saying that he hasn’t been played in a position suitable to replicate that form. In his words, “The reason is that in the position for which my services are required for the national team, I have been ranked way behind several players as not to merit a place in the team on occasions when it mattered.”

Andre Ayew was dropped from the final list of players for the just-held African Cup of Nations by coach Kwesi Appiah effectively because Appiah could not wait for the player to arrive a day or two before the list was submitted. For Appiah it was too great a risk. He would have missed most of the team’s training camp in Abu Dhabi and ultimately Appiah felt that he had good enough replacements. The player had asked for more time to be treated for a hamstring injury by his club doctors who I presume he trusts more than the doctors in Ghana’s camp.  Ayew had allegedly missed previous deadlines given him.

Any professional athlete will tell you that hamstring and groin injuries are some of the most delicate injures to treat. A failure to undergo the right treatment and it can easily become a protracted one. This is the same Ayew who had previously played for Ghana in the 2012 Afcon with a persistent shoulder injury. Some readers might remember him writhing in pain and having his shoulder popped back twice in the game against Guinea.  He shook it off and finished the tournament. Ayew eventually had surgery on that shoulder in March which ended his season prematurely and kept him on the sidelines for three months. The start of this current season was thus difficult for him as he struggled to regain his form. It was that form he brought to play in a few Black Stars matches towards  the end of the year and getting substituted which left him angry.

Andre has undoubtedly been one of Ghana’s most impressive Ghanaian players since 2010. He has impressed with skill but mostly with spirit and determination. He has his frustrating moments when he holds on to the ball longer than he should but he more than makes up for that with his zeal. He is in short, a fighter.

By taking leave, he and his brother who also has a combative (sometimes petulant) streak are doing what they know best. They are fighting a system that took away an opportunity to represent their nation on the biggest African stage. They’ve decided to take on a management whose attitude appears to be that without them the players cannot function or that good to great players can simply be replaced willy nilly.

That attitude is not surprising given that these are the same management team members who justified their taking identical winning bonuses to  players for the 2013 Afcon. We’re increasingly living in a warped Ghanaian world where a sense of entitlement has overtaken one of sacrifice – where elected members of parliament (MPs) view public service as an opportunity to lord it over others rather than serve.

It is an opportunity to claim emoluments rather than make substantial and meaningful changes to the lives of the people who elected them.

So is it any wonder that football administrators see themselves as being as high in the pecking order as the players who sweat, break their backs and sometimes get injured without the necessary protections that professional clubs in Europe provide?

Unless FA officials change their posture and recognize that it is players who play the game and make them look good or bad, this ‘temporary retirement’ gimmick will routinely be used by players as a way of lifting their fists up high in protest whenever they feel victimized.  Or worse, they might shift from deuces to middle finger in the air, Chris Brown style, making the Black Stars a collection of players available rather than the best players Ghana has to offer.

Indeed the Ayews ‘temporary retirement’ as Dede points out continues a trend traceable to other Stars like Michael Essien, KP Boateng and Asamoah Gyan, though the crucial difference is that the earlier cases were precipitated by injury, stress etc rather than FA management decisions .  Credit is of course due the FA for keeping an open door policy which helps ensure that the retirements are in the end truly temporary (eg Asamoah Gyan).  The Ayews’ move  however raises the stakes significantly.

Such heightened stakes could compel the FA members  and team management to make decisions based on principle rather than on a sense of position and power. Ultimately though both players and management have to agree to be more flexible with their different stances always with the progress of the team and interest of the nation in mind.


Dede Ayew, Marseille's most consistent player

UPDATE: The Ghana Football Association has reached a compromise of sorts with a number of European clubs regarding the reporting date for a few Black Stars players as they head to camp.


Marseille is putting in a special request for Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan to remain at the club until after January 7, the day players are to report for preparations towards the 2012 Cup of Nations. Prior to African Cup of Nations tournaments, stories like this are typical – the result of the importance of the African player in Europe and the tournament being organized smack in the middle of the European season.

When it comes to the Ayews though, I have flashbacks of Marseille keeping their dad until the last minute before “crucial”  matches (NB: every non-friendly runs the risk of being characterized as “crucial” in Ghanaian sports journalism circles). Once upon a time in the ’90s,  Marseille would keep their dad for a midweek match and arrange for a private jet to deliver him in time for a weekend Black Stars match. Immediately after the game, he would be whisked away. Mind you, his performance was always second to none. Ahhh, but these were literally the good old days of AA, before players cited fatigue, injuries, headaches etc. as reasons they couldn’t play for their country.

Additionally, these were before FIFA mandated teams to release their players 14 days before the start of tournaments such as the Afcon and seven days before FIFA sanctioned friendly dates and qualifiers.

The question in this case is whether Ghana should agree to Marseille’s request or insist on the rules being respected to the letter. If the shoe were on the other foot and Ghana asked for Dede and Jordan to be released for an important match (say, Meteors qualifying for Olympics or U-20s World Cup qualifier), would Marseille accede?

Given that they had a chance last year to do that and didn’t why are we having this discussion? Far from being vindictive, such arrangements are possible when you’ve built a certain amount of goodwill with a certain club. It cannot be a one way street. This is just my opinion though. What do you think? Vote below but leave your more detailed comments in the comments section.


Some of Goran Stevanovic's recent decisions have left fans confused

Over the last four to eight years whenever the Black Stars play, there has been a quiet and healthy confidence. We might not have won every match but you got the sense that fans, players, management were all confident of getting positive results. We had the players led by none other than Michael Essien playing at the top of their game. Essien’s play for Ghana has often been criticized but even when he played at 80 percent of his Chelsea peak, he was still the best player on the pitch and Ghana won. We also had the financial support with the headline Goldfields package introducing some financial stability.

Heading into this weekend’s group I game against Sudan, I can’t help but feel apprehensive. Ghana is one of a number of African ‘powerhouses’ who are in danger of missing out on the 2012 African Cup of Nations. The Black Stars merely have to avoid defeat to qualify though and among the South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana quartet seem in the strongest position. Given that simple task you would think I would retain this healthy confidence. Not!!! I fear that our past successes have created a false sense of confidence to the extent that we think even when we don’t have our best players on the pitch it’s a given that we should win as comfortably as when all our top stars are present.  So while the financial support remains the same, albeit renewed for just a year and many in management remain, the uncertainty surrounding our team is concerning.

Several key developments have created this apprehension. The latest is the dropping of Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew from the team because he was ‘coming back from injury.’ This ‘coming back from injury’ excuse was mysteriously not applied to John Mensah. In a week in which Dede made headlines on the pitch in European Champions League as well as in Ligue 1 action, the Ayew camp promptly let Ghanaian media know that he never asked to be excused. These two may well be true. Stevanovic may have dropped Dede because he wanted to give a rest and Dede may well not have wanted to rest. Either way, he’s not coming.

Coupled with the rumors of a refusal by Kevin Prince Boateng to play for the Black Stars again as long as Goran Stevanovic is coach. Some news reports Boateng denied this using his twitter account but @kpbofficial which is the verified twitter account I know for Kevin Prince has no record of such comments. Either way, the constant speculation on the status of the relationship between player and coach concern me. After all, if footyghana.com is to be believed, Kwesi Nyantakyi said in an interview that Boateng failed to call Stevanovic back on two occassions after the coach had called him. Nyantakyi subsequently denied using those words. In any case, those two situations for me fall under the ‘there is no smoke without fire’ category. Kwadwo Asamoah’s benching against Swaziland also raises red flags. Even though he came on and played well, his subsequent lackluster performance against Brazil suggests that he stands on wobbly grounds for his inconsistency. In these three instances, what I take away is that the communication between the coach and players could be better. In Asamoah’s case, his benching suggested he wasn’t implementing the coach’s tactics.

Finally, Richard Kingson’s exclusion from the squad while not totally surprising is the final evidence that the spine of the team is changing as I mentioned a few weeks back. The goalkeeper is changing, captain John Mensah’s injuries mean Jonathan Mensah or any other capable defender who will step up will slowly replace him, Agyemang Badu is also nudging Anthony Annan to the bench. All the strikers outside of Asamoah Gyan are a formidable striker away from being replaced so that department is bound to face some changes soon.

Having said all this, it is worth noting that Stevanovic has by and large made a winning start in coaching the Black Stars. Many of these wins are a residue of the quiet confidence instilled in the team and the cohesion promoted by his predecessors. So far, Stevanovic’s imprint does not yet seem to continue that assurance. As he unearths and integrates new players like Albert Adomah, Massawudu Alhassan and Abu Mohammed among others in the squad, he is going to have to settle on a winning style and a team spine which will bring back that stability. Add an improved communication style and he might well fulfill his promise of bringing Ghana multiple trophies.