Outright odds: 300/1
To win group: 12/1
To qualify: 3/1
Full squad: Fatau Dauda (Orlando Pirates), Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset), Stephen Adams (Aduana Stars); Samuel Inkoom (Platanias), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege), Harrison Afful (Esperance), John Boye (Rennes), Jonathan Mensah (Evian), Rashid Sumalia (Mamelodi Sundowns); Michael Essien (AC Milan), Sulley Muntari (AC Milan), Rabiu Mohammed (Kuban Krasnodar), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese), Afriyie Acquah (Parma), Christian Atsu (Vitesse Arnhem), Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough), Andre Ayew (Marseille), Mubarak Wakaso (Rubin Kazan); Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Schalke), Abdul Majeed Waris (Valenciennes), Jordan Ayew (Sochaux).
Argentinians and Englishmen alike know the hand of God to be Diego Maradona’s infamous touch in that 1986 quarter final but for Ghanaians you need go back only four years for the infamous moment when Luis Suarez saved a goalbound ball only for Asamoah Gyan to miss the ensuing penalty. With an African side so close to the semi finals for the first time it was a crushing blow like no other for Black Stars fans, with the enduring image being Gyan in tears as he realised the ramifications of his miss as Suarez ran down the touchline, celebrating as if he knew what was to come. The penalty shootout was just as agonising, weak kick after weak kick condemning them to having gotten just so far. Many have seen Ghana as the top African hope for another World Cup bid, but a horror group draw will see them do well to reach the last 16.
Ghana certainly went about getting to Brazil in the right way, topping their African qualifying section group – an easy one which they were expected to negotiate with little fuss – in fine style, winning all but one of their games, and then producing one of the most impressive performances seen by Ghana for many years, trashing African bogey nations Egypt 6-1 in a stunning show of pace and power infront of their own fans before seeing the advantage through in the second leg to make it to a third finals.
And for all that the odds are stacked against them in terms of making the last 16 for a third successive tournament, they come here with plenty of talent equipped for the challenge ahead.
Never a good place for most African sides – apart from Nigeria with Enyama between the sticks – Ghana look short in the goalkeeping area, with Fatus Dauda only a sub for the MLS’s Orlando Pirates, leaving Adam Kwarsey favourites and Stephen Adam as reserves. Between the three, they played just 10 league games in the last season.
Defence is where Ghana have the most problems. Appiah’s young set of defenders – with the oldest being 27, many would hope to make it to Russia in 4 years time – let in just three during qualifying but were poor in the 2013 African Nations Cup, shipping twice against DR Congo in the Group stages as an example of weakness, and while the likes of John Mensah have been removed from the setup, none of them played a full league season and one of them played for a side in the top 45 of a European league – not good news when going against Germany and Portugal.
The Ivory Coast is known for having a strong midfield presence, but Ghana may have the most talented of any African side at this year’s tournament. Milan duo Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari bring a wealth of international experience and power at the base of the midfield for the Black Stars and passing options as well as starters for counter attacking moves.
Out wide, Marseille’s Andre Ayew – the skipper of the Under 20 World Cup winning side in 2009 – was a shining light for the Frenchmen in a Champions League campaign that bought no points from an incredibly tough group, while regularly impressing in Ligue 1. Kevin Prince-Boateng is a regular for Schalke, who once again qualified for the Champions League and went to the last 16 of the competition again, and his presence after an international absence is a boost for the talent and morale of the squad.
The Jewel in the crown, however, maybe Kadwao Asamoah. A one time Udinese starlet, the 25 year old was moved up and become an integral part of the Juventus side that has turned Serie A into a procession for the last two years, making the left wing his own and impressing both at home and in Europe. Versatile and powerful, he offers possibly the greatest threat.
Jordan Ayew hasn’t quite lived upto Andre’s standard but he made good use of himself at Socaux and a hat-trick against South Korea in his World Cup warm-up bodes well for a potential assignment in the group stages and Christian Atsu, on loan from Chelsea, has impressed for Vitesse on loan.
Majheed Waris played just four games in qualifying but scored three times, underlining the options should something bad happen to the star man. Asamoah Gyan has confessed to watching the penalty miss that cost the Black Stars a World Cup semi final place 20 times in the last four years but 4 years with Al-Ain on a hefty contract should have allowed him plenty of time to get over the heartbreak and he comes here having got plenty of confidence, racking in the goals over in the UAE (81 league goals in 66 appearances to be exact) – while also notching 6 times in qualification for Ghana, with home he has nearly 40 World Cup goals.