As favourites to take home the African Cup of Nations this year the spotlight is already firmly on Ghana. A squad full of swagger, confidence and youthful exuberance make them one of the best teams in the tournament but who are the players that are making the Black Stars shine?:
Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain, UAE)
A.K.A: “Baby Jet”
Caps: 54, Goals: 27
Previous Clubs: Sunderland, Rennes, Modena, Udinese, Liberty Professionals
Did you know?: Gyan is the first Ghanaian Player ever to score a goal at the Fifa World Cup Finals
Despite only just returning from injury Ghana’s big star is in top form scoring 12 times in 10 appearances for current club Al Ain. Gyan has already proved why he deserves to be in the squad scoring in a warm-up match against South Africa but with only three strikers named in the 23-man Black Star’s team Ghana fans will be praying his injury doesn’t return. Love him or hate him, Gyan is the type of player who can won a match in an instant.
Sulley Muntari (Inter Milan, Italy)
Caps: 68, Goals: 20
Previous Clubs: Sunderland, Internazionale, Portsmouth, Udinesse
One of the most experienced in the Black Stars team Muntari is expected to play a key role in Ghana’s campaign. The 27-year-old embodies all the attributes of a top African midfielder. Strong, great passing and a handy eye for goal makes the Inter Milan man one of the most effective players at the tournament.
John Mensah (Lyon, France)
A.K.A: “Rock of Gibraltar”
Caps: 76, Goals: 1
Position: Centre Back
Previous Clubs: Sunderland, Rennes, Cremonese, Chievo, Modena, Genoa, Bellinzona
Captain John Mensah has been Ghana’s regular backbone of the team over the past ten years, but has been struggling with recurrent injuries in the past few months which have left him short of match practice. The hugely experienced defender is the most capped player in the Black Stars team.
John Paintsil (Leicester City, England)
Position: Right Back
Previous Clubs: Leicester City, Fulham, West Ham, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Berekham Arsenal, Liberty Professionals
Did you know?: A devout Christian, Pantsil prays on the pitch before each match, seconds before kick-off.
Despite lacking playing time at club level Paintsil’s experience and discipline earned him a place in Ghana’s squad. A player of considerable experience the athletic and skilful defender is a popular figure amongst supporters with his colourful character and wholehearted performances. Paintsil is probably most famous for playing with one long sleeve and one short sleeve on his shirt, a mystery that still engulfs football fans.
Andre Ayew (Marseille, France)
Caps: 35, Goals: 2
Position: Winger/ Forward
Previous Clubs: Arles-Avignon, Lorient
Key to Ghana’s hopes of ending their 30-year trophy drought will be the Marseille winger. The BBC African Footballer of the Year for 2011, Ayew notched 11 times for the club last season and has been amongst the goals once again in 2011-12. Michael Essien’s absence over the past couple of years has allowed Ayew to flourish and he will take centre stage again in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The 22-year-old shone at the 2010 World Cup and it has been suggested, with good reason, that Ghana may have made it to the semi-finals had he not missed the Uruguay match through suspension.
Jordan Ayew (Marseille, France)
Previous Clubs: Lyon Duchere
Did you know?: Jordan is the third son of Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew to represent Ghana at international level
The younger of Marseille’s Ayew brothers 20-year-old Jordan will be given every chance to make an impact for Ghana, especially with Gyan’s fitness up in the air. If he replicates his performances for Marseille at the Africa Cup of Nations, he will be one to watch for the future.