Ghana head into the World Cup off the back of finishing as runners-up at the 2010 African Nations Cup in Angola. They may have lost the final to Egypt, but their run to that final saw the emergence of a number of talented young players who broke into the starting line-up.
The Black Stars will have to survive the tournament without their best player, Michael Essien, whose failure to recover in time from a knee injury first suffered in Angola is a huge blow to Ghana’s hopes. Not only are they missing Essien, but their next biggest star, Sulley Muntari, currently finds himself on Ghana’s bench after a series of disciplinary issues.
So who is likely to step up and make an impact in their absence?
The Established Stars
Asamoah Gyan (Rennes, France) age 24, Caps:39 Goals:19
Gyan is only 24 years old, but is already well on his way to become Ghana’s all-time top scorer. Goals are in Gyan’s blood; he scored his first for Ghana three days before his 18th birthday and currently has 19 international goals, only 14 short of Abedi Pele’s record. Gyan combines pace and intelligent movement with great technique and an eye for goal. He is a predator in and around the box and will be Ghana’s main goal threat at the tournament.
John Mensah (Sunderland, England) age 27, Caps:63
Highly talented defender who captains the side at this tournament. Mensah is only 5ft 11in tall, but possesses great strength and rarely loses a physical battle with an opposing forward. Was instrumental in Ghana’s 2006 World Cup run, but is an even better player this time around following his Champions League experience with Lyon and Premier League experience with Sunderland. Mensah’s leadership and quality in the Ghanaian backline will be key to their chances of success. Not to be confused with teenage defender Jonathan Mensah, the squad’s youngest player.
Anthony Annan (Rosenborg, Norway) age 23, Caps:30 Goals:1
Only 23 years of age, but the midfielder is a relative veteran in this fairly inexperienced side. Annan made his international debut in 2007 and has been in the side ever since; his combination of defensive discipline and technical quality making him a key component of Ghana’s midfield. He will likely have a lot of work to get through given the highly attacking instincts of most of his midfield colleagues.
The Rising Stars
Prince Tagoe (Hoffenheim, Germany) age 23, Caps:16 Goals:4
Tagoe is a tall and highly talented striker who often operates on the wing for Ghana. His pace and dribbling ability enable him to cause problems to any full-back, while his physical attributes allow him to dominate in the air. Endured a torrid few months in late 2009 after controversy over a supposed heart condition stopped him playing for his club, but Tagoe has been in good form in recent months and could be a real star in South Africa.
Andre Ayew (Olympique Marseille, France) age 20, Caps:19 Goals:1
Ayew is not the biggest, but what he lacks in height and strength he makes up for in speed and skill. He has quick feet and decent delivery, with his international record showing he is more of a provider than a goal scorer. Has a long way to go match his father, the legendary Abedi Pele, but Ayew has already shown plenty to suggest he will be one of Ghana’s key players for many years. Captained the u-20 World Cup winning side and is likely to have a starting place at this World Cup.
Isaac Vorsah (Hoffenheim, Germany) age 21, Caps:12
The giant defensive midfielder is not easy to miss, and each of Ghana’s Group D opponents can certainly expect an intense physical battle against the young star. At 6ft 5in, he is able to operate effectively at centre back as well, and he may well partner Mensah in the centre of Ghana’s defence throughout this tournament.
Kwadwo Asamoah (Udinese, Italy) age 21, Caps:13 Goals:1
Highly talented playmaker who makes the side tick in the absence of Essien. Asamoah was the star man during Ghana’s run to the final of the 2010 African Nations Cup. Highly intelligent, Asamoah will provide the creative spark behind Ghana’s front three. Enjoyed a great season in Serie A with Udinese and a good World Cup could earn him a move to one of Europe’s top clubs.