Welcome to a brand new series at Football News, the World Cup Watch. With the World Cup in Brazil scheduled to begin in June of this summer, our various correspondents will be endeavouring to keep you informed with regards to the players that ply their trade in France’s chances of fulfilling every footballer’s dream of representing their nation at football’s most celebrated tournament. Today, one of our African correspondents Prince Teye Narkortu takes an in depth look into the chances of some of the most prominent Ghanians currently playing in France’s Ligue 1 of wearing their country’s colours in Brazil this summer. Each of the player’s chances has been graded out of ten in terms of their likelihood as to bagging a place on that plane to Brazil in under 100 days time.
The French Ligue 1 may not be the biggest in terms of coverage and patronage but it has, no doubt, been a hub for the production of many soccer greats, of which Africa has been a major beneficiary.
Roger Milla, Abedi Ayew, George Weah, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, Rabah Madjer and Didier Drogba are all products of the Ligue 1 system and that stands testament to the unassailable importance of the league to African football.
A careful look at the final 23-man squad paraded by each of the six African teams at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and one could count as many as twenty-two players on the books of Ligue clubs – quite impressive. And rightly so, the trend is expected to continue came June in Brazil.
In this piece, I take a deeper look at five Ghanaian players who could possibly be in Brazil for the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup.
John Boye – Stade Rennais
This lanky central defender may have made only two competitive appearances for his club since his return form injury but he’s unarguably a sure bet for the mundial should he remain fit. After suffering a thigh injury which kept him out of Ghana’s last three World Cup qualifying games, the former Heart of Lions rear-guard is back and running.
He only became a Black Stars regular just about two years ago following a sterling performance at the 2012 African Cup of Nations co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon and looks set for his maiden appearance at the FIFA flagship event.
Ghana’s defence has looked shaky over the past few months due to major injuries to all three of Ghana’s first choice central defenders – Boye, Vorsah, and Jonathan Mensah – and with Vorsah still out with an unclear return date, the 26-year-old is expected to form an impregnable partnership with fellow Ligue 1 defender, Jonathan Mensah, in the heart of Ghana’s defence.
Rating – 8.5/10
Jonathan Mensah – Evian Thonon Gaillard
Just like Boye, Jonathan only recently returned from injury but his place in Ghana’s 23-man contingent to the summer tournament has never been in doubt. The 23-year-old has been a regular member of the Black Stars since he was first drafted into a relatively inexperienced team led by Milovan Rajevac that made it all the way to the 2010 African Cup of Nations finals only to lose by a goal to nil against Egypt, though he made no appearance.
But it’s this valuable experience that he gained at the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a 19-year-old that will prove priceless in Brazil. With Ghana scheduled to come up against some of the best players in the World come Brazil including current Ballon d’Or holder, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Ghana defence is will have to be as vigilant as ever – in fact, at at its best – to prevent an untimely first round exit. Mensah’s experience should come in handy, particularly with the fact that no other member of the likely starting back four, minus Vorsah had had as much exposure to the Ghanian national squad as the Evian man.
Rating – 8.5/10
Jordan Ayew – Sochaux
For Ghana, there are several players who face a last minute run for a place to Brazil, Jordan sits comfortably among them. Having made a promising entry into the Black Stars some four years ago, the 22-year-old has rather been largely seen in the periphery with just ten Black Stars’ appearances to his name and two goals. An unwarranted sabbatical away from international duties due to Coach Kwesi Appiah’s decision to overlook him for the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa did him no good. He has yet to feature for the Black Stars since his return and his current club form compounds issues with the Marseille loanee yet to register a goal since his January move to Sochaux.
Should Kwesi Appiah decide to pick just three strikers for the tournament, as he has with his most recent squad named for an upcoming friendly away to Montenegro, the youngest son of Ghana soccer legend, Abedi Pele, would face a stiff fight from Elche striker, Richmond Boakye-Yiadom, as Gyan and Waris remain sure bets. Luckily for him, Richmond has also been having his own club problems lately and that puts Jordan in a slight advantage with just three months to go.
Rating – 6/10
Andre Dede Ayew- Marseille
Unlike his younger brother, Andre, barring any last minute injury, is a sure bet for the World Cup. At just 23, Andre possesses a World Cup appearance under his belt (2010) and is expected to be seen manning the left flank for the Black Stars in Brazil. The player is, however, running against time to gain much fitness ahead of the event as he only recently returned to club action following a three-month lay-off. I reiterate, but for any last minute injury, nothing looks to stop Andre from playing in his second successive World Cup.
Rating – 9/10
Abdul Majeed Waris – Valenciennes
If there is any Ghanaian in the French Ligue 1 who currently holds an untouchable ticket to Brazil, it has to be Abdul Majeed Waris. Having made a loan switch from Russian outfit, Spartak Moscow, the Right-to-Dream Academy product has already bagged four goals with four assists in eight appearances including a brace in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at home to Sochaux at the time of writing.
His performances at international level has lately been impressive too. After failing to find the net in his first four Black Stars’ appearances, Waris finally found his rhythm in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier at home to Sudan in a 4-0 win and has since registered three goals in his last six internationals, all in competitive fixtures.
Rating – 9/10
P.T.N. (African Correspondent)