The Black Stars of Ghana were once a force to reckon with as far as football was concerned globally. The mere thought of playing the Black Stars alone sent shivers down the spine of their opponents. Three consecutive FIFA World Cup appearances are enough to corroborate this assertion. Quite paradoxically, things are beginning to change for the erstwhile ‘Giants’ of African football.
The Black Stars have failed to record a win their last four encounters with their last being a drawn game against Uganda in the World Cup qualifier thus putting the team in a tight corner to grab the only ticket from the group to Russia 2018. A lot of eyebrows have been raised; Avram Grant’s tactical nous has been questioned; the performances of the players in recent times has become a worry to Ghanaians who are calling for the inclusion of new faces in the Black Stars set up. The situation has been obvious for some time now but it took the nation a little while longer to catch on.
Known as the‘Brazil of African football’, the country is endowed with enormous football talents regardless where they play; a Ghanaian talent is easily identifiable. The just ended Ghanaian Premier League produced a lot of these stars who will easily fit into the Black Stars setup – just imagine my plight as I attempted to whittle down a huge shortlist to pick out six of the Ghanaian Premier League’s outstanding performers who can compete for a place in the Black Stars.
Club : Accra Hearts of Oak
Arguably the most promising centre back in the Ghanaian Premier League. The tall defender missed the first half of the season through injury but recovered to be the most influential player for the Phobians in the second half of the season. Although aggressive, he has a patient side as well and does not rush in and tackle unnecessarily. He gives a solid presence at the back and can dominate the box. He can also work his way forward and start attacks from the back. Additionally, he is not flustered under pressure and clears his lines when necessary. He won five man-of-the-match awards, as his club finished third in the season. He recently got invited by Avram Grant to train with the Black Stars ahead of their World Cup qualifying tie against Uganda.
Latif Atta Blessing
Club : Liberty Professionals
Not the biggest of centre forwards, neither is he the tallest but when we talk of instinct and ability to find the back of the net, he is the best or one of the best on the local scene. He scored 17 goals to win the goal king award. Latif is pacey and a good dribbler and outwits his markers with ease. He can play as a number 10 or a false 9. Latif is renowned for his clever movement, where he drifts into pockets of space from a false 9 role to create angles for teammates. His intelligence with space and eye for a pass also make him an attractive option playing behind a striker.
Club: Dreams FC
Position: Left back
Currently tearing up and down the flank for Dreams FC, the 22-year-old has had a fantastic season in the Ghanaian Premier League. Any winger would be proud of his season’s stats: 26 games in all competition, 4 assists, and he’s created 50 chances for his teammates, all from left back. Whilst he is no slouch in defence, he offers great recovery pace. He is a high risk/ high reward style defender. He likes to snap at his opponent’s heels and burgle them of possession before they have a chance to engage him in a one-on-one duel. He could be an ideal back-up for Baba Abdul Rahman.
Club: Kumasi Asante Kotoko
Position: Right back
The Kumasi Asante Kotoko skipper is a delight to watch. He is an energetic presence and provides plenty of cut and thrust down the right flank, but he isn’t found wanting defensively. He forces turnovers high up the field before inching forwards into the opponent’s half. He likes to combine with his right winger, progressing down the line with his 1-2 touches and transitions, rather than looking to beat players with skill or pace. Amos can also play as a centre-back; he scored 8 goals for his side in the just ended Ghanaian season. Perhaps his biggest strength is his game intelligence. Incredibly mature and composed as a leader, he has good communication and organizing skills which ensure that defensive lapses do not occur.
Manuel Eli Keke
Club: Dreams FC
Touted as the next big thing to happen to Ghana football, the 20-year-old defensive midfielder has been nothing short of a revelation in his debut Premier League campaign. With two goals and as many sterling performances in his cluster of appearances for the Dawu based club, so far there’s been much to admire about the chap. Extremely versatile, Manuel Eli Keke can also play as a centre back and a left back. He is blessed with an ability to change direction with almost effortless ease, and his balance on the ball- combined with a great awareness of what’s around him- makes him a constant threat. Possessing an appreciable height and with an unusually neat technique for a player of his age. He is a good passer of the ball, loves shooting from long ranges and dribbles when necessary. With his driving runs, slick passes and discipline, the youngster is surely ready to rub shoulders with established names in the Black Stars.
Club: Medeama SC
Medeama’s crowning jewel, Kwesi Donsu is known as the dead ball specialist. Out of the fifteen league goals scored, ten were by way of freekicks thus earning him that moniker. He is a conductor. He makes his side tick and rarely gives the ball away- but doesn’t just pass sideways. The midfield metronome is capable of spraying lengthy passes, keeping the game simple, or executing the killer balls that really matter. Technically excellent and difficult for defenders to catch with or without the ball, he will surely be difficult to oust from the team once granted an opportunity in the Black Stars.