Whether the GFA decided to release their squad before or after it became clear the players, their agents and clubs, and maybe even FIFA/CAF failed to get their “keep the squad secret” memo, we will never know. Or indeed if the memo ever existed. Nevertheless the squad is here, with 16 of those called for the AFCON keeping their place in the squad. Having survived intense scrutiny from layers of FA officials, it is undoubtedly a strong one, with greater balance, variety of skillsets and depth than the squad called in December for Ghana’s painful AFCON performances.
It goes without saying that the return of Mohammed Kudus to health is of significant benefit to Ghana’s chances, but it is worth stressing. Whether he plays deeper in midfield or higher up the pitch, the Ajax man’s ability in tight spaces alongside his progressive, penetrative and goalscoring qualities give Ghana’s midfield an altogether different aura. With the return to the squad of Yaw Yeboah, fresh from his move to MLS, and the continued presence of the impressive, almost-swaggering, Daniel-Kofi Kyereh, Ghana’s midfield & attacking midfield areas suddenly look more threatening. Whether Addo looks to include all three in a team that has struggled for players comfortable between the opposition lines will be one storyline to follow.
Elsewhere, Ghana have introduced two new dual-nationals – Denis Odoi and Elisha Owusu. Odoi has recently returned to his native Belgium from Fulham, where he had a successful time as a versatile presence across the back line. He has postponed Philemon Baffour’s Black Stars odyssey for now. He tended to play full-back in the Championship & centre-back when Fulham stepped into the Premier League, and has spent the majority of his time at Club Brugge as a defensive midfielder. This provides a hint as to his tendencies – preferring to stay deeper, prioritising defensive work & being comfortable circulating, recycling & progressing from both central & wide.
Owusu meanwhile is another defensive midfield presence. Tidy in possession and disciplined positionally, he appears to be an intelligent potential foil for Thomas Partey in deeper areas, competing with Edmund Addo & Iddrisu Baba, if Ghana choose to give the in-form Arsenal man greater freedom to bomb on.
In Baba Rahman’s absence, there are two new faces at left-back, Montari Kamaheni and Dennis Korsah. The latter’s performances at Hearts of Oak have been enough to see him called, but the presence of three left-backs may lead to suspicions that the Korsah pick is rather more a token call than a serious option, which does all parties a disservice. Kamaheni meanwhile does not offer the same passing & penetrative qualities as Baba, but he is fairly sound defensively and a willing progressive ball-carrier into space from deeper areas. Gideon Mensah should start if healthy.
Joseph Aidoo returns at centre-back, rewarded for his fine form in Spain, whilst Osman Bukari and Christopher Antwi-Adjei return as options who can play out wide or as strikers. Both offer similar skillsets & tendencies – a willingness to attack in behind & get into the box, carry quickly (particularly in space) and an ability to play off either flank. In Kamaldeen’s absence, they may be relied on to offer the depth options & wide threat Ghana needs (with assistance from Gideon Mensah).
Up front, the headline news is Felix Afena-Gyan’s decision to make himself available. The Roma man’s rise has been steep and he is still raw, but he does offer direct dribbling ability, eye-catching ball-striking & a significant work rate. Whether he is trusted to lead the line is another big storyline – or will Jordan Ayew or Kwasi Wriedt and their very different profiles be preferred?
Overall, as previously mentioned, this is a strong, diverse squad. The sturdy spine exists, Ghana have four capable goalkeepers, quality centre-backs & a varied group of centre midfielders. Whilst the quality at winger, full-back & striker is perhaps not as high as it could be, the technical team have done a good job identifying different skillsets, allowing them to be adaptable during this window. Whether they have long enough with the group to impose their ideas is another question entirely, but in this squad, they have given Ghana a chance.
Scott Geelan is the Head of Technical and Analysis at AfroStat. AfroStat are a Ghanaian company, bringing data analysis and technology to football in Ghana and Nigeria, with a special interest in scouting and performance.