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Gyan in Danger of Legacy Lost

17 Jan

I wasn’t the only one who listened on in bewilderment as Ghana took on Chile at the PPL Park in Philadelphia at the end of February.I feel for the poor commentator and I dread to imagine to the look on his face as his gentle producer approached him calmly afterwards to inform him that the young left sided Black Star was not, in fact, Asamoah Gyan, as the unfortunate fellow had insisted on calling him, but Kwadwo Asamoah, already approaching 50 caps, and a well established player in his own right.

The commentator had insisted on announcing ‘Gyan’ proudly and profoundly every time Asamoah touched the ball or found himself in space. You can just imagine the chap’s reaction to being told he had misidentified the player for the entire match: ‘Not Gyan? Not Asamoah Gyan? Then where was he?’

Yes, exactly! Where was Asamoah Gyan, where is he, and, more to the point, where exactly is he going?

Gyan is in danger; in danger of being one of those ‘what ifs?’ of the footballing tapestry, in danger of being remembered for being a quitter at the Stadium of Light, and for a career with the Ghana team peaking with three missed penalties, on three big nights. Gyan is in danger of destroying his legacy, and losing the chance to lead a truly exciting generation of Black Stars on towards future challenges.

I begin with the third of these aforementioned penalties; Bata, February 8th, an Afcon semi final against Zambia, a place in the Libreville final at stake.

Ghana were awarded a penalty in the first half. A penalty so early in the game, particularly early in a game only settled in the dying minutes, might not be the natural point to consider when analysing the game’s outcome. Inevitably, however, it has been, and Gyan’s miss – an indecisive shot struck not quite far enough from Kennedy Mweene – led directly to the striker calling time on his international career.

Following the miss, and the subsequent defeat, the Ghanaian people seemed to close in on the team. As has been the case in various African nations following tournament disappointments (see Nigeria 2010 among others) a spate of finger pointing, name calling and vowed retribution ensued. This year it was Ghana’s turn, and a litany of complaints followed the team’s exit; murmurs of black magic, an embattled Serbian coach unsure of his future, vitriolic public reaction, and then Gyan’s retirement.

I imagine the history behind the latest miss wasn’t lost on the majority of fans. Cast your minds back to South Africa, 2010, the dying embers of a quarter final, an African team, on African soil, the whiff of the semis thudding against the back of their nostrils, Uruguay on the ropes, Suarez in disgrace, and Gyan fluffed it…and fluffed it spectacularly, blazing the ball against the cross bar and up into the Sowetan sky.

I recall that miss as perhaps the stand out moment of the tournament, I enjoyed the match memorably on a balmy evening in Kensington, yet cursed irreverently at Gyan’s miss. At the time the narrative was of Gyan the courageous, Gyan the brave, Gyan who stepped up moments after to open scoring in the shootout. It certainly was brave, it certainly was bold, and Gyan deserves the sympathy, but I can’t help think, as he reflects on his career many years from now, he will recall that miss, the ball sailing off, head in hands, and the collective groan of a continent, as a devastating moment of loss. Marcel Desailly, bursting blood vessels in the ITV studio, would surely agree.

I believe that there is more to come from this Black Stars team. Whilst Mark Gleeson, among others, suggested they ‘ran out of steam’ during the Cup of Nations, I was impressed by their dominance in the earlier rounds of the tournament; particularly the dynamism of young Kwadwo Asamoah, the emergence of John Boye, and the defiance of Anthony Annan, playing on despite his mother’s death.

It appeared to be in the final third that Ghana were unable to convince. Blogs such asZonalMarking.net identified that whilst this was a team suited to the counter attack, they lacked the creativity and attacking verve to truly devastate inferior opposition, and to capitalise on the possession they were inevitably afforded in the continental arena. The premature retirement of Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, one of the first to console and encourage Gyan after his World Cup miss, has compounded this lack of cutting edge. It is an issue that will not be helped by Gyan’s self-imposed international absence.

The third penalty miss I mentioned, and the first chronologically, came in the 2006 World Cup, and Ghana’s group defeat of the Czech Republic. Here, the miss was inconsequential, with Gyan being one of two scorers to secure an historic 2-0 victory in the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne. His goal in this game was also the fastest in the tournament, coming only 68 seconds into the contest.

I close with this memory because it was the tournament, and perhaps the match, which first brought this exciting, attacking player to the collective perception of the footballing fraternity. Despite having already enjoyed several years prior with Udinese, this was the summer when the name ‘Asamoah Gyan’ and his slightly incongruous number 3 shirt began to mean something to the casual fans from disparate football upbringings.

I, for one, was enchanted by the pleasure with which he approached the game, his tireless running, his inventive movement, and of course, his dancing celebration – one of the ‘feel good’ moments (excuse the cliché) of that World Cup. I was lucky enough to witness all of this first hand as I watched Sunderland/Tottenham at the Stadium of Light in February 2011.

Gyan’s time at Sunderland, like his international career to date, started brightly, filled with promise, only t0 dissipate into bad feeling and disappointment. The player is currently on loan at Al Ain in the UAE. The facts still aren’t completely clear regarding the move; a falling out with Steve Bruce perhaps, sadness at the departure of Darren Bent, an offer the club simply couldn’t refuse? It may never be cleared up. There were rumours of Martin O’Neill wanting to bring Gyan back to the North East, and whilst I would enjoy seeing his strong attacking vitality and opportunistic finishing once more in the Premier League, it is leading the line for Ghana where I really want to see Baby Jet back.

This is a young Ghana team, but an immensely talented collection of players, plying their trade in leagues across the world, and for a number of Europe’s top clubs. With the indefatigable Stephen Appiah seemingly fatigued for good, and with Michael Essien spending more time in the physio’s room that out of it in West London, the team craves a figurehead, a unifying totem to lead them through World Cup Qualification and onto future glory. I hope that Asamoah Gyan can be that man, and can reinvigorate a legacy in grave danger of being lost.

Ed Dove, London
Eddy_Dove@Hotmail.com
Twitter ~ @EddyDove
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Predicting the Ghana Squad ahead of the Afcon

15 Jan


Predicting the Ghana Squad ahead of the Afcon
With the Africa Cup of Nations less than 2 months away, Goal Africa correspondent Ed Dove looks inside Kwesi Appiah’s mind to assess the likely makeup of the Black Stars squad come January.
Goalkeepers
Dead Certs
Adam Kwarasey
Ghana’s Number 1: It’s hard to look too far beyond the Stromgodset man – an impressive Afcon could put a number of top European clubs on alert.
Probable
Fatau Dauda
The Ashanti stopper has experience of the Cup of Nations, having travelled to the 2008 edition. After a competent performance against Cape Verde, he is likely to be included again this time around.
Possible
Ernest Sowah, Daniel Adjei
An early regular in Appiah’s squads, Sowah hasn’t been selected since the first leg against Malawi, whilst a recent recall for Liberty Professionals youngster Daniel Adjei suggests he may well be back in the boss’s plans.
Unlikely
Phil McCarthy
Defenders
Dead Certs
Isaac Vorsah, John Boye, Harrison Afful
Appiah has some big decisions to make in defence, with many talented options. Three men who can be confident of their plane tickets are centreback partnership Isaac Vorsah and John Boye, as well as left back of choice, Harrison Afful. Whilst Vorsah’s fitness is a potential headache for Ghana selectors, if the centre back recovers from his recent injury woes, it is imperative that he travels.
Probables
Lee Addy, Jerry Akaminko, Jonathan Mensah, Sam Inkoom, John Mensah
Competition for defensive places is fierce, with several players optimistic of featuring, despite not currently being signed to a club, John Mensah is a comfortable bet to make the squad after being handed the ‘general captaincy’ role.
                Inkoom appears favourite to take the right back spot, whilst Jonathan, Lee Addy, and in-form Jerry Akaminkolook likely to battle for the centre back berths.
Possibles
John Paintsil, David Addy, Daniel Opare, Richard Boateng, Razak Nuhu
Portuguese-based David Addy has been welcomed back into the fold in recent times, and despite not yet realising the great promise he showed as a youngster, could one day be a serious option at left back. Opare’s versatility will be tempting for the coach, whilst John Paintsil offers experience, and will surely be hopeful after being recalled for the last two squads.
                Boateng and Nuhuare youthful prospects that have integrated well into the squad under Appiah.
Unlikely
Nana Asare, Masahudu Alhassan, Mohamed Awal, Rashid Sumaila
After having been overlooked previously, Nana Asare was another to be recalled for the recent friendly against Cape Verde. Despite a solid performance against the islanders, it’s hard to imagine the Utrecht man forcing himself into the squad ahead of some of the aforementioned. A favourite of Goran Stefanovic, Alhassanfeatured at the last Afcon. Unfortunately, the youngster has been ignored ever since, and Appiah looks unlikely to recall him anytime soon.
Midfield
Dead Certs
Tony Annan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Emmanuel Badu, Atsu
This quadrant of midfield masters are the heart and soul of the Black Stars, and it would be almost impossible to envisage a successful Afcon campaign without their tenacity, touch, and talent. Any of the four could emerge as the tournament’s standout star.
Probables
Derek Boateng, Solomon Asante
Having been dropped unceremoniously from Ghana’s second leg bout against Malawi, Derek Boateng has a point to prove with the Black Stars. A recall for the Cape Verde friendly suggests the Dnipro man is still part of Appiah’s plans, and he is likely to have the chance to rediscover his previously imperious form for Ghana at the Afcon.
                After fears over his eligibility to play for the Black Stars were cleared, Berekum Chelsea midfielder Asantehas been a regular feature in Appiah’s squads, suggesting his is in a good position to make the cut.
Possibles
Alfriyie Acquah, Albert Adomah, Sulley Muntari, Mubarak Wakaso, Eddie Gyimah, Isaac Coffie, Laryea Kingston, Mohammed Rabiu,
With a number of midfield spots still up for grabs, several players are in with a shot at selection – many of whom offer the coach something different.
                Sulley Muntari brings experience and a big game temperament, and should travel if he can overcome his recent injury-ravaged months.
                One of the most intriguing candidates is Laryea Kingston. Once a national team regular, the midfielder’s stock has fallen following a disappointing time in Europe. Revitalised at Hearts of Oak, the veteran may well be capable of adding an extra dimension to the Black Stars.
Unlikely
Emmanuel Frimpong, Jebrin Torric, Frank Acheampong, Fred Duncan, Mohammed Abu
Acheampong made his Black Stars debut against China in August’s friendly, but has been overlooked ever since. At only 19 years of age, his time will come, but I imagine this Afcon will be a year or two too soon. Internazionale’s Fred Duncan is another who is likely to be kept waiting to make his Afcon impact – a debutant against Cape Verde, the Accra-born midfielder gave a competent display, but faces stiff competition for a place.
                Emmanuel Frimpong’s rehabilitation continues following last season’s horrific knee injury. Recent displays in Arsenal cup ties have been promising, but this is a young midfielder trying to find his way back into the game, and despite recently receiving clearance to compete for the national side, his focus in January is likely to be a Championship campaign on loan with Charlton, rather than Black Stars progress in South Africa.
Strikers
Dead Certs
Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Asamoah Gyan
Reintegrated into the Black Stars fold, the Black Stars skipper Asamoah Gyan will be Ghana’s main frontman at the Afcon. Keen to exorcise the nightmarish campaign he endured last time around, and keen to win round Black Stars fans who doubted him, look for Babyjet to make a big impact.
                Despite Appiah’s insistence that no one has a guaranteed spot in his final 23, it seems absurd to imagine the omission of the Ayew brothers, both of whom will be looking to cement themselves as true superstars on the continental stage.
Probables
Emmanuel Clottey, Richmond Boakye, Waris Majeed
Youngster Majeed is yet to find the net for the Black Stars in his handful of appearances, yet Appiah clearly sees something in the Tamale-born frontman who has been a regular in his squads. Whilst a lack of playing time at club level may count against the diminutive striker, his prolific time in Sweden with Hacken suggests he knows how to find the net.
                Emmanuel Clottey and Richmond Boakye both offer exciting and effective, but very different styles of attack – both could be terrific options for the Black Stars, either from starting positions or off the bench.
Possibles
Dominic Adiyiah
Once the darling of Ghanaian football, Adiyiah’s fall from grace has been hugely disappointing for national selectors. The former Milan man has struggled to make a convincing case for his inclusion after initially being invited back into the action by the new boss.
Unlikely
Quincy, Prince Tagoe, Ricky Mpong
An early favourite of Appiah’s, Mpong has failed to hold down a squad place with the Black Stars, and an Afcon call up looks beyond him.
Quincy and Prince Tagoe have never had the chance to prove their capabilities under Appiah, and despite having scored previously for the Black Stars, are unlikely to be called upon.

Kwadwo Asamoah: Scounting Juventus’ Highly-Rated Ghanaian Midfielder

15 Jan


Kwadwo Asamoah: Scounting Juventus’ Highly-Rated Ghanaian Midfielder
When the Africa Cup of Nations rolls around on the 19th of January the international audience will begin searching for a standout star of the tournament, for Africa’s prized possession, for the continent’s golden son. The next day, on the 20th, Ghana kick off in Port Elizabeth against the Democratic Republic of Congo-they may not be looking for long.
Among the Black Stars, there is one that shines particularly brightly.
Kwadwo Asamoah is no secret, there is no guessing game here, there is little speculation anymore, here is a player who is approaching his prime, is settling in comfortably at one of Europe’s elite, and primed and ready to take the continent by storm. Ghana’s legendary captain Stephan Appiah, who preceded Asamoah at Juventus, argued in the summer that he was already one of Serie A’s finest midfielders, and Afcon 2013 will provide the former Udinese man with the perfect chance to cement his place as one of Africa’s finest as well.
Recently named in CAF’s initial shortlist of 34 candidates for the African Player of the Year award, Asamoah’s talents are recognised in Africa, and spectators will be keen to see the player unleashed upon Ghana’s Afcon opposition.
Combining sharp technical proficiency, energy, and dynamism Asamoah is somewhere close to the complete, all-round midfielder. Perhaps slightly on the short side at 5’8, the Accra-born star compensates for this by competently contributing both in attack and defence, permitting his team-be it Juventus or Ghana-to transition the play quickly and subtly between different phases of play. His rise to the top has been forecast ever since emerging as a wonderkid at Liberty Professionals, the midfielder’s first club, in Dansoman, and now it appears that Asamoah has finally arrived in the sport’s upper echelons.
A summer signing from Udinese, in Italy’s industrial North East, Asamoah is an ideal illustration of Zebrette’s guiding method, that of using their broad scouting network to pluck potential stars from the world’s far corners, trusting them in Serie A, blooding them domestically, and then eventually selling them on to larger clubs for a handsome profit, allowing the cycle to continue again. Whilst his fellow Ghanaian and close friend Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu continues his tutelage in Udine, Asamoah has already arrived at the terminal stage of the conveyor belt, having been brought by Turin superclub Juventus this summer.
Asamoah’s early season form has been impressive at the Old Lady. His first appearance in Serie A saw him set up a goal for full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner, and he hasn’t looked back since. I initially imagined that Asamoah would contribute to Juventus’s multi-talented midfield, adding vim and vigour to compliment technicians such as Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal. In fact, it hasn’t always worked out that way, and Asamoah has often been deployed in a left wing-back role, or even as a utility winger, marauding down the flank and adding an extra dimension to Juventus’s play-certainly adding a valued alternative to the more static players beside him.
Juve supporters can be confident that, regardless of his future role in the side, in ‘Asa’ they have a one of the game’s finest prospects. The midfield man is primed to step up to the dual challenges of the Champions League-where Juve qualified from a group containing Chelsea and Shakhtar Donetsk-and the defence of the Serie A title-which the Turin side currently lead by four points. The Afcon in South Africa may seem like a walk in the park after becoming habituated to fortnightly outings in front of over 40,000 at the Juventus Stadium.
Ghana will be hoping to improve on last term’s disappointing Semi Final exit, and with Michael Essien ruling himself out of contention for the squad, StepApp’s Ghana career a distant memory, and Sulley Muntari contending with a long drawn-out rehabilitation program, the time is now for Asamoah to step up and claim his rightful place as the Black Stars’ navigator, heartbeat, and talisman.
If the Juvetus man flourishes, Ghana could well find themselves sitting at the head of the continent’s high table.

Ghana’s top 5 adversaries in the Afcon Group Stage

10 Nov



Ghana’s top 5 adversaries in the Afcon Group Stage

With the groups for the Afcon now known, teams can identify their chief challenges in the tournament’s opening round. Goal Ghana’s Ed Dove considers the top five adversaries standing between the Black Stars and a place in the Quarter Finals.
With last night’s draw in Durban revealing the lineups for the opening group stage of the African Cup of Nations, fans across the continent learnt their opposition for the tournament’s opening round. Pitted in group B alongside DR Congo, Niger, and Mali, the Black Stars face a challenge to secure a place in the Quarter Finals. This article considers the top five players Ghana will face in the battle of Group B.
Moussa Maazou
Niger boss Gernot Rohr was all optimism and confidence after learning his side’s fate for the group stage. Whilst there are many in Niger who won’t share the German’s sanguinity, those who follow Mena will be under no illusion that any possible progression in the competition must depend – to some extent at least – on the twinkle toes of frontman Moussa Maazou.
The nomadic frontman is still only 24, but already with his eighth club, now is the time to deliver on his immense potential. Once the subject of a €4.8m transfer from Lokeren, in Belgium, to CSKA Moscow, Maazou’s three years in Russia didn’t quite work out. Now back in Africa, with Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia, the striker has the chance to reinvent himself heading into the central years of his career. A prolific Afcon for Double M wouldn’t half go down well in Niamey.
Dieumerci Mbokani
Being placed in Pot Four for the draw, featuring among the four lowest ranked teams in the tournament, DR Congo were the side everyone wanted to avoid. Part of the reason for this apprehension, and a key figure in the gentle renewal of these fallen giants of African football, is dynamic frontman, Dieumerci Mbokani.
Another who has traipsed through an assortment of footballing outposts in his career to date, Mbokani has featured everywhere from Monaco to Mazembe; a spell in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg didn’t impress many, but back in Belgium with Anderlecht since 2011, the powerful forward has been proving just what he is capable of. Another move, to a bigger club and league beckons for a man who is oft-quoted as being ‘too good’ for the Belgian pro-league – Black Stars fans had better hope he’s not ‘too good’ for Group B!
Cheick Diabaté
Of four nations stacked with firepower, one of the most devastating frontmen may well belong to Mali. Any chance of success in the competition for Les Aigleswill depend heavily on the faults and fortunes of Cheick Diabaté. After years of being on the fringes at Bordeaux, frustrating seasons including loans down in Ajaccio and up in Nancy, the 6’4 hitman is finally being considered a serious force at the Stade Chaban Delmas.
Few in Mali can forget his impact either: One of the country’s most memorable moments in recent history was Diabaté’s 85th minute equaliser against hosts Gabon in Libreville in 2012’s Afcon Quarterfinal. The goal took the tie to extra time, and eventually penalties, where the towering forward was one of the scorers in the eagles’ shootout victory. Despite a muted defeat to Cote d’Ivoire in the Semi, Diabaté was on hand once again in the third place play-off – bagging two to overcome the Black Stars. It’s a result all Ghanaians will be hoping to avoid this time around!
Modibo Maiga
With superstars like Seydou Keita, Mahamadou Diarra, and Freddie Kanouté coming to the end of their Mali careers, Les Aigles are beginning to turn to a new generation of players to carry the mantle and perhaps succeed where their illustrious predecessors failed. One such player is Modibo Maiga, now in his fifth year with the national side, and ready to finally become a major player.
A versatile frontman who is capable of playing up top or alongside a middle man, Maiga can be a valuable weapon for any team. Productive displays in Morocco, for Raja Casablanca, and in France, initially with Le Mans, and then with Sochaux, led him to East London, and the Premier League with West Ham. Yet to truly break into the starting eleven, Maiga demonstrated his class with a calm finish against Southampton this weekend. Black Stars should keep a close eye on this effective frontman.
Trésor Mputu
Few players have been as pivotal to TP Mazembe’s recent domestic and continental success as Trésor Mputu – the diminutive frontman has wowed publics and defied defences Africa-wide as Les Corbeaux have, at times, conquered all before them. With World Cup qualification a distant dream, and 2013 being the first Afcon appearance in seven years for the Leopards, Mputu finally has the chance to represent his nation on the continental stage.
Once named ‘The next Samuel Eto’o’ by current Congo boss Claude Le Roy, Mputu has long been considered ready to make the move to a European team – an impressive display against Ghana in their Group B clash, and that move may come sooner rather than later. Black Stars will need to keep a tight lid on this lethal leopard.
Ed Dove
@Eddydove

Ghanaian Trio among the Finest in Africa

10 Nov

Ghanaian Trio among the Finest in Africa


With the 34 nominees for the 2012 African Footballer of the Year named, Goal Ghana’s Ed Dove considers the credentials of the Ghanaian nominees, and presents his views on the field of selection as a whole. Three Black Stars have been honoured among the 34, and while André Ayew, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, and Kwadwo Asamoah are perhaps unlikely to win the award at the end of the year, these players can be rightly acknowledged for their efforts in 2012.  
For André Ayew, nomination may well be considered a silver lining on a black cloud in an important year of a nascent career. At a national level, things began badly, as the much fancied Black Stars fell to Emmanuel Mayuka’s late winner in the Afcon semi final in Bata. Despite bagging two goals in the tournament, ‘Dédé’ never quite managed to set the competition alight as he had threatened to. Throughout the event the Black Stars dominated possession, and teams, without showing the cutting edge to truly inspire fear in their opponents. Ayew was typical of this, linking impressively with younger brother Jordan, but only fleetingly making a monumental contribution – an example being the extra time winner against Tunisia in their Franceville quarter final.
On domestic duty, for his club side, Marseille, the year has been particularly trying. Slumping to an tenth place finish in Ligue 1, their worst for eleven years, OM were barracked from all quarters, and had to watch on torturously as rivals PSG splashed the cash – enough to potentially dominate the domestic circuit for the visible future. Troubles were compounded by a galling maiden league title for south coast rivals Montpellier – OM forced to look on longingly as La Paillade celebrated their triumph. Ayew retained his place in Marseille’s first eleven, but without progressing as many around him had forecast after his celebrated initial years at the club. Big games against MHSC and Bayern came and went without Abedi Pele’s golden boy showing what he is capable of, despite a respectable scoring return. A hat-trick against Lille in the 2011 Trophée des Champions now feels like an age away. In time to come, however, André Ayew will surely find himself among the chief contenders for this award.
For Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, the year has been one of steady progression and augmented recognition. A crucial component of the Ghana team that progressed to the Semis in the Afcon, Badu scored an important equaliser against Guinea, and managed to further cement himself in the Black Stars’ midfield. Domestically, Badu has risen in prominence at Udinese, his club side since November 2009. With Gökhan İnler departing for Napoli, the midfielder has been called on to replace the ex-captain in the centre of the park. The Berekum-born Black Star has performed admirably, enough so to somewhat soften the blow of Kwadwo Asamoah’s transfer to Juventus this summer.
After not featuring in Ghana’s uninspired 2-0 victory over Malawi in their initial qualifying bout ahead of Afcon 2013, an injury also looks like keeping Badu out of the return. Anthony Annan is set to remain marshalling the midfield in the near future, particularly after his impressive strike in the first leg, but if Kwesi Appiah’s men are to rove to glory in South Africa, they will surely need to call on the maturing talents of the diminutive Badu. Being named among the 34 nominees for the CAF award is testimony to the growing appreciation that exists for this young man’s talents.
The third nominee, Kwadwo Asamoah, is a dear friend of Badu’s, and similarities between the two men have not been lost on observers. Initially, their styles are akin; even if Asamoah allegedly possesses a higher technical proficiency. Both offer energy and dynamism in the middle of the park, as well as the ability to contribute both in defence and in attack, allowing their teams to switch fluidly between phases of play.
Their career trajectories have also followed similar pathways. Asamoah is an ideal illustration of Udinese’s guiding method, that of using their expansive network of scouts to pluck potential stars from the world’s more obscure leagues, trusting them domestically, blooding them in Serie A, before eventually selling them on to larger clubs for a handsome profit. Whilst Badu is still undergoing his tutelage in Udine, Asamoah has already arrived at the terminal stage of the conveyor belt, having been brought by Turin superclub Juventus this summer.
Asa has impressed in his early showings at Juve, even setting up a goal for full back Stephan Lichtsteiner in his first Serie A appearance for La Vecchia Signora. With the Juventus midfield packed with technicians such as Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, it may fall to Asamoah to add gusto and drive to the Bianconerimidfield, whilst simultaneously protecting those around him. Whatever his role evolves to become, Juve supporters can be confident that they have a star in the making on their books. The young midfielder is primed to step up to the dual challenges of Champions League competition and the defence of the Serie A title, whilst his fortnightly outings in front of over 40,000 will stand him in good stead to combat the rigours and pressures of playing for the national side. Asamoah may well become the brightest of Black Stars.
Ultimately, the award is likely to end up with one of the African heavyweights, perhaps more established than the aforementioned. Yaya Toure’s masterly performances guided Manchester City to their first Premier League title since 1968, whilst then-Chelsea duo Didier Drogba and John Obi Mikel excelled as the Blues won their first European Cup, the former scoring the decisive penalty against Bayern Munich in the final, whilst the latter put on a wonderful midfield display against Barcelona in the semis. In the North East, Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cissé have set the Premier League alight with their attacking performances, Cissé in particular with two stunning strikes against Chelsea in May and a magnificent return from his first six months in England.
With the award winner to be named in the Banquet Hall, State House in Accra on the 20thof December, all Ghanaians will be urging the CAF officials to choose one of their stars for the prize. Whilst it’s unlikely, imagine the boost the nation would receive ahead of Afcon 2013 were one of their trio to be heralded as Africa’s finest. Ultimately, 2012 may not prove to be the year for the Black Stars, but a fine showing in South Africa, and we may well see some more of Ghana’s sons added to next season’s list of nominees.
Ed Dove
 @EddyDove.

Four A grade black stars who could make it in the EPL – Atsu, Ayew, Annan & Asamoah.

7 Aug

Four A grade black stars who could make it in the EPL – Atsu, Ayew, Annan & Asamoah

Within the last few weeks, The Daily Mail, among other outlets, have strongly hinted at the possibility of Porto wide player Christian Atsu making a move to Tottenham Hotspur in the near future. In this article, Goal.com’s West Africa correspondent Ed Dove considers Atsu’s credentials, and also looks at three other Grade A Black Stars who could one day make the leap to the English Premier League.
Christian Atsu
One of the brightest Black Stars is Christian Atsu Twasam, for whom a move to the Premier League may become a reality imminently. Since planting himself in the White Hart Lane hotseat, Tottenham’s new manager Andre Villas-Boas has indicated his desire to enlist Joao Moutinho, captain of AVB’s former club Porto. While there is still scope for the Portuguese midfielder to make the switch to North London, various sources indicate that it may be Christian Atsu, Porto’s young Black Star, who makes the move first.
                The left sided attacker spent last season on loan at Rio Ave, and impressed in his temporary stint at Big River, winning the club’s Player of the Season award in the process. Still only 20, the diminutive winger is probably one for the future, but after scoring on his Black Stars debut against Lesotho at the beginning of this summer, there are many who feel that he is ready to take a step up in his career. The player’s new nickname, ‘Messi’, certainly suggests that he is capable of great things.
                As well as technique, speed, and a tactical nous that belies his youth, Atsu can also weigh in with the odd sublime goal too; a deft finish against Benfica last season proving what he can do in the big games. It was AVB who first promoted Atsu to Porto’s first team back in May 2011, and an impending reunion at White Hart Lane could well suit both parties.
André Ayew
Unlike Atsu, Marseille’s André Ayew is a player who has already established himself at a top European side, and whilst the midfield dynamo still has more to achieve at Stade Vélodrome, he may be off to another European superpower before very long. Ghanaweb reported recently that Internazionale were favourites to snap up the Black Star, but at Goal Ghana we believe that a move to the Premier League might be even more appropriate for the man nicknamed Dédé.
                Standing at only 5 foot 9, Ayew may on first glace appear to be too slight to be truly effective in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League – but the Black Star has a bite that’s bigger than his bark – only this week OM boss Elie Baup had to intervene as Ayew incensed Mathieu Valbuena with an over-zealous tackle.
                With Ayew’s popularity among his teammates in decline, and bigger dogs sniffing around, he may be departing the South of France sooner rather than later. Both Manchester United and Arsenal have reportedly shown interest in the left-sided midfielder, and a move to the Premier League may be on the horizon.
Anthony Annan
During the Afcon tournament earlier this year, Schalke midfielder Anthony Annan won a whole host of new admirers after stoically playing on despite his mother’s death after a short illness. At the time the player could have been forgiven for taking his eye off the ball, or even leaving the Black Stars’ camp and returning to his family – even the late Ghanaian president John Atta Mills was on hand to offer his condolences to the dynamic midfielder.
                Annan didn’t leave the camp though, and in fact, his performances didn’t even suffer, as he manfully took up his place at the base of the Black Stars midfield, repelling attack after attack as Goran Stevanovic’s team made to the Semi-Finals. Whilst many in Ghana were disappointed with the team’s performances, Annan largely escaped criticism, the tournament demonstrating why he is such a prized asset to this Black Stars side.
                Despite having two years left on his contract in Gelsenkirchen, it seems likely that Annan will not be sticking around in the Bundesliga. Manchester United were once linked with the player, but more recently it has been clubs such as Belgian giants Anderlecht which have reportedly shown interest. With his tenacious style and boundless energy, the pintsized midfielder could also be a hit in the Premier League – Annan could well become a star at a mid-table side looking for a little more bite and a little more passion in the middle of the park.
Kwadwo Asamoah
Ok, ok, so I realise that Kwadwo Asamoah has recently signed for Juventus, I realise that the young midfielder is overjoyed to become a part of such a significant club, & giddy at the prospect of playing alongside Andrea Pirlo in midfield, I realise that the chances of him arriving in the EPL in the near future are about as high as Sunderland unveiling a statue of Asamoah Gyan…but just imagine it…
                Imagine in a few years time, imagine Asamoah after a clutch of Serie A titles, after having established Juve as a European powerhouse once again, after having pulling the strings in Ghana’s midfield as the Black Stars play their way to a World Cup Semi Final in Brazil 2014…imagine the talent that could then be unleashed upon an English audience.
                Combining pace, power, and creativity, as well as a sublime footballing technique, Asamoah has been destined for the top since his early days at Liberty Professionals. His tutelage in Italy began back in 2008 as Udinese brought him over to Europe in a convoluted deal. Several consistent years in northeastern Italy has now brought him to Turin.
                Whilst things didn’t completely work out for Black Stars great Stephen Appiah at Juve, fans in Italy and Ghana are hoping that Asamoah can become an international superstar at La Vecchia Signora. Perhaps a few glorious years in Italy may lead to a move to the Premier League, certainly a handful of top teams will be keeping tabs on the Old Lady’s latest Black Star.
Ed Dove
@Eddydove

Gyan in Danger of a Legacy Lost

14 Mar

I wasn’t the only one who listened on in bewilderment as Ghana took on Chile at the PPL Park in Philadelphia at the end of February.I feel for the poor commentator and I dread to imagine to the look on his face as his gentle producer approached him calmly afterwards to inform him that the young left sided Black Star was not, in fact, Asamoah Gyan, as the unfortunate fellow had insisted on calling him, but Kwadwo Asamoah, already approaching 50 caps, and a well established player in his own right.

The commentator had insisted on announcing ‘Gyan’ proudly and profoundly every time Asamoah touched the ball or found himself in space. You can just imagine the chap’s reaction to being told he had misidentified the player for the entire match: ‘Not Gyan? Not Asamoah Gyan? Then where was he?’

Yes, exactly! Where was Asamoah Gyan, where is he, and, more to the point, where exactly is he going?

Gyan is in danger; in danger of being one of those ‘what ifs?’ of the footballing tapestry, in danger of being remembered for being a quitter at the Stadium of Light, and for a career with the Ghana team peaking with three missed penalties, on three big nights. Gyan is in danger of destroying his legacy, and losing the chance to lead a truly exciting generation of Black Stars on towards future challenges.

I begin with the third of these aforementioned penalties; Bata, February 8th, an Afcon semi final against Zambia, a place in the Libreville final at stake.

Ghana were awarded a penalty in the first half. A penalty so early in the game, particularly early in a game only settled in the dying minutes, might not be the natural point to consider when analysing the game’s outcome. Inevitably, however, it has been, and Gyan’s miss – an indecisive shot struck not quite far enough from Kennedy Mweene – led directly to the striker calling time on his international career.

Following the miss, and the subsequent defeat, the Ghanaian people seemed to close in on the team. As has been the case in various African nations following tournament disappointments (see Nigeria 2010 among others) a spate of finger pointing, name calling and vowed retribution ensued. This year it was Ghana’s turn, and a litany of complaints followed the team’s exit; murmurs of black magic, an embattled Serbian coach unsure of his future, vitriolic public reaction, and then Gyan’s retirement.

I imagine the history behind the latest miss wasn’t lost on the majority of fans. Cast your minds back to South Africa, 2010, the dying embers of a quarter final, an African team, on African soil, the whiff of the semis thudding against the back of their nostrils, Uruguay on the ropes, Suarez in disgrace, and Gyan fluffed it…and fluffed it spectacularly, blazing the ball against the cross bar and up into the Sowetan sky.

I recall that miss as perhaps the stand out moment of the tournament, I enjoyed the match memorably on a balmy evening in Kensington, yet cursed irreverently at Gyan’s miss. At the time the narrative was of Gyan the courageous, Gyan the brave, Gyan who stepped up moments after to open scoring in the shootout. It certainly was brave, it certainly was bold, and Gyan deserves the sympathy, but I can’t help think, as he reflects on his career many years from now, he will recall that miss, the ball sailing off, head in hands, and the collective groan of a continent, as a devastating moment of loss. Marcel Desailly, bursting blood vessels in the ITV studio, would surely agree.

I believe that there is more to come from this Black Stars team. Whilst Mark Gleeson, among others, suggested they ‘ran out of steam’ during the Cup of Nations, I was impressed by their dominance in the earlier rounds of the tournament; particularly the dynamism of young Kwadwo Asamoah, the emergence of John Boye, and the defiance of Anthony Annan, playing on despite his mother’s death.

It appeared to be in the final third that Ghana were unable to convince. Blogs such as ZonalMarking.net identified that whilst this was a team suited to the counter attack, they lacked the creativity and attacking verve to truly devastate inferior opposition, and to capitalise on the possession they were inevitably afforded in the continental arena. The premature retirement of Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, one of the first to console and encourage Gyan after his World Cup miss, has compounded this lack of cutting edge. It is an issue that will not be helped by Gyan’s self-imposed international absence.

The third penalty miss I mentioned, and the first chronologically, came in the 2006 World Cup, and Ghana’s group defeat of the Czech Republic. Here, the miss was inconsequential, with Gyan being one of two scorers to secure an historic 2-0 victory in the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne. His goal in this game was also the fastest in the tournament, coming only 68 seconds into the contest.

I close with this memory because it was the tournament, and perhaps the match, which first brought this exciting, attacking player to the collective perception of the footballing fraternity. Despite having already enjoyed several years prior with Udinese, this was the summer when the name ‘Asamoah Gyan’ and his slightly incongruous number 3 shirt began to mean something to the casual fans from disparate football upbringings.

I, for one, was enchanted by the pleasure with which he approached the game, his tireless running, his inventive movement, and of course, his dancing celebration – one of the ‘feel good’ moments (excuse the cliché) of that World Cup. I was lucky enough to witness all of this first hand as I watched Sunderland/Tottenham at the Stadium of Light in February 2011.

Gyan’s time at Sunderland, like his international career to date, started brightly, filled with promise, only t0 dissipate into bad feeling and disappointment. The player is currently on loan at Al Ain in the UAE. The facts still aren’t completely clear regarding the move; a falling out with Steve Bruce perhaps, sadness at the departure of Darren Bent, an offer the club simply couldn’t refuse? It may never be cleared up. There were rumours of Martin O’Neill wanting to bring Gyan back to the North East, and whilst I would enjoy seeing his strong attacking vitality and opportunistic finishing once more in the Premier League, it is leading the line for Ghana where I really want to see Baby Jet back.

This is a young Ghana team, but an immensely talented collection of players, plying their trade in leagues across the world, and for a number of Europe’s top clubs. With the indefatigable Stephen Appiah seemingly fatigued for good, and with Michael Essien spending more time in the physio’s room that out of it in West London, the team craves a figurehead, a unifying totem to lead them through World Cup Qualification and onto future glory. I hope that Asamoah Gyan can be that man, and can reinvigorate a legacy in grave danger of being lost.


Ed Dove, London
Eddy_Dove@Hotmail.com
Twitter ~ @EddyDove

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