Ghana head to Qatar for the World Cup desperately hoping to avoid a repeat of their last major tournament.
At the Africa Cup of Nations in January, Ghana, four-time winners of the continental competition, failed to make the knockout round for the first time in 2006 following a shock defeat to minnows and debutants Comoros.
Their humiliating exit saw them fail to win a match in 22 appearances at the finals and finish bottom of their group.
The Black Stars sacked coach Milovan Rajevac following their dismal AFCON showing and Otto Addo, a former Ghanaian international, steered them to World Cup qualification after taking the reins.
But Ghana have struggled for form since edging out Nigeria for a place in Qatar in a tie marred by crowd violence in the second leg.
Such is the level of concern over their recent travails that some are even calling for Otto Addo to be replaced before the World Cup, while the country itself has sought divine intervention by having two national days of prayer and fasting in a bid to reverse their fortunes ahead of the tournament.
It is little wonder they are taking such drastic measures.
Ghana have won just two of their 12 matches this year. They were held to a 1-1 draw by the Central African Republic, ranked 132 in the world by FIFA, in their first AFCON qualifier in June, before being thrashed 4-1 by Japan and drawing 0-0 with Chile.
Results didn’t get much better in September, when they were outclassed by Brazil and only recorded a narrow 1-0 win over Guatemala, ranked 81 places below them, in a recent friendly.
But there remains a feeling that Ghana have the players at their disposal to be a real force in African football and perhaps even cause an upset at the World Cup, where Addo’s charges have been drawn with Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea in a difficult Group H.
Ghana will take on Switzerland in a pre- world cup friendly in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, November 17, 2022.
The match will give Otto Addo and his technical team a perfect opponent for the group H opener against Portugal at the 974 stadium in Rass Abou Aboud – Doha.
The friendly against Switzerland will complete the calendar of the Black Stars – going into the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 tournament.
Black Stars key players to watch out for in Qatar:
Daniel Amartey has been a revelation for Leicester City this season, having finally overcome his niggling injury problems.
The 27-year-old started the campaign on the bench but has worked his way to gain the trust of manager Brendan Rodgers.
Amartey has since been a key player for the Foxes in recent weeks and he will be expected to translate that form to Ghana when his country plays in Qatar. The defender is already a starter for the Black Stars and his status in the team hasn’t waned.
One player whose decision to switch nationality to Ghana excited fans is Tariq Lamptey. The right-back chose Ghana over England and will play a key role for the former in the World Cup.
Lamptey has enjoyed limited game time for Brighton in the Premier League this season, with his injury being managed by manager Roberto De Zerbi.
That said, though, his pace and directness makes him Ghana’s best right-back at the moment and he is likely to start in Qatar.
Ghana’s poster boy currently, Mohammed Kudus has done everything right at Ajax this season and has improved his goal-scoring record too.
The playmaker has often played as a false nine for the Dutch champions and has excelled in the position. Although he is unlikely to be deployed as a striker for Ghana, he remains key to the fortunes of the Black Stars.
Whether as a central midfielder or an attacking midfielder, Kudus is one of Ghana’s best players and can make the team tick with his creativity and passing ability.
Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey is playing his best football since joining the Gunners two and a half seasons ago.
The 29-year-old has been a key part of Mikel Arteta’s table-topping side and has helped them dominate opponents in the Premier League and Europa League.
Partey’s best position in the Black Stars remains a conundrum but he’ll definitely be an important player for Ghana in Qatar.
Andre Ayew has been the captain of the Black Stars since 2019 and has now added his name to the select list of players to have captained Ghana to the World Cup.
He is also his country’s joint most-capped player – tied with Asamoah Gyan on 109 appearances. Although Ayew is no longer the pacey and all-action footballer he used to be, he is still highly regarded by Otto Addo.
The Al Sadd forward has a penchant for scoring goals and is a natural leader. These are attributes that will be needed by the Ghana team.
Undoubtedly Ghana’s most in-form striker at the moment, Inaki Williams’ nationality switch seems to have come at the right time.
The Athletic Bilbao forward has been in imperious form this season and he is expected to be Ghana’s starting striker at the World Cup.