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Two key decisions, two intertwined issues, were at the forefront of Ghana’s pre-tournament preparations.
First of all, how would Kwesi Appiah reintegrate the returning stars—Michael Essien, Kevin-Prince Boateng, the Ayew brothers—after they, as a group, ended their respective international exiles?
The second was how the manager would employ Kwadwo Asamoah. The Juventus man is Ghana’s best player and a double Serie A winner in Italy, but he has too often found himself on the peripheries of the team, plonked at left-back to accommodate other, less versatile players.
Arguably, Appiah failed on both counts.
Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari were expelled from the team due to unacceptable behaviour, while the team were widely criticised for their role in the well-publicised bonus scandal. The revelations and acrimony that have followed the team out of Brazil have painted a picture of a disparate collective, each individual playing for himself and more focused on money than national pride.
While this may be far from the truth, it doesn’t obscure the impression that Kwesi Appiah, like a beleaguered schoolteacher on a trip, failed to keep his charges under control and focused on the side’s objectives.
Asamoah starred at left-back, as expected, but he remains one of the key protagonists in a summer of “what might have beens” for Africa.
Since the tournament and despite the Black Stars’ failings, Appiah has been awarded an improved contract. The coach described himself as “fortunate” to have the Ghana job, but many fans would suggest that he is even more fortunate to have been allowed to remain at the helm beyond Brazil.
While the west Africans do not require the kind of overhaul that other nations do, the climate of player power must be stamped out and Appiah must attempt to place the focus back on the team.
Stephen Keshi’s 2013 Cup of Nations winners provide the perfect template for this; the Big Boss axed Nigeria’s big names and overachievers and put the emphasis back on the collective. It is an example that Appiah would do well to follow.