STEVANOVIC’S 25-MAN SQUAD…smacks of inexperience

Until 2006, Ghana had invariably been sacrificing winning a fifth nations cup title for participation at a world cup. In other words, Ghana placed more premium on participating in the FIFA World Cup than adding up to the four continental titles though the latter cannot be ruled out anytime the nation qualified for an Africa Cup of Nations. Ghana had won four African titles by 1982. Then unprecedented, there was growing boredom of those titles as football fans always clamoured for participation in a world cup in order to show the world the stuff the country is made of as a footballing nation. As a result, hunger for a debut appearance at a world cup superseded a quest for a fifth continental title. For that matter, anytime Ghana failed to win a nations cup title or, worse still, failed to make it out of the group stage at a nations cup, the ‘3ny3 hwee’ (it doesn’t matter) side of the Ghanaian came to the fore as fingers were crossed for the dream of a sterling football nation rubbing shoulders with the likes of Brazil, Argentina, England and the Netherlands at a senior FIFA World Cup. This dream even soars to immoderate proportions when Ghana beats these same countries at junior world cups. Ghana, thus, looked on, seemingly unconcerned, as Egypt crawled to seven titles, the last of which came at the expense of the Black Stars nearly two years ago while Cameroon also climbed to equal Ghana on four Cup of Nations titles even when Ghana’s last came at a time the Indomitable Lions were yet to win a trophy on the continent. Indeed, those two nations had been at the world cup before and only had motivation to add to their African title haul.

Egypt’s charge

After Ghana tasted senior world cup football in 2006 in Germany, hankering for more of the nations cup title began dawning on the Black Stars though it was quite too late to catch the Pharaohs at that point. They were already with their fifth title when the realization came to Ghana and they came to spite Ghana in the face when they won their sixth title on the soils of Accra. They deepened Ghana’s woes in Angola where they left it late in the finals to beat the Black Stars 1-0 to clinch a three-peat of titles, well outstanding in the annals of the Africa Cup of Nations. That feat was like a bbd in hand worth two in the bush as then coach of the Pharaohs Hassan Shehata also broke a long standing record of Ghana’s Charles Kumi Gyamfi, a winner of the nations cup title both as a player and a coach.

Stevanovic’s resolve

Fortunately, Goran Stevanovic’s resolve to win titles for Ghana as he intimated during his unveiling gave some of us (or should I say me) the tell-tale sign that a fifth continental title for the Black Stars is not far-fetched. Though the path to this dream has been made smooth with the absence of nations like Egypt and Cameroon, glory can only begin in the players selected for the tournament. Some of us thought Stevanovic can only be the first expatriate coach to win a continental title for Ghana after his thumb-on-paper motive of announcing just the 23 players he wanted for the Gabon-Equatorial Guinea tournament one month early in order to get them fully concentrated for the battle ahead.

But events seemed to have changed and my confidence in the coach waned as he seemingly succumbed to pressure to have two additional players to his squad. Unfortunately, during the announcement of the 25-man squad last week, Goran Stevanovic did not hint in any way why he went for 25 instead of the originally purported 23…a chink in the Serb’s armour as too pliant?

I will not dwell much on that but will rather talk about the 23-man squad. Ooops! I made a mistake, 25-man squad!!

Goran's 23 will begin camping in South Africa

Stevanovic answers questions on his 25-man squad

Stevanovic will parade arguably one of the most inexperienced Black Stars squads for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. The team is inexperienced not by way of age but by way of participation at the continent’s flagship tournament.

Experience and inexperience

First of all, the most experienced player is right back John Paintsil of Leicester City. He has played at four CANs and has a higher chance of making his fifth appearance in Gabon-Equatorial Guinea. Paintsil was part of Osam Duodu’s side in Mali, Ratomir Dujkovic’ side in Egypt, Claude LeRoy’s side here in Ghana and Milovan Rajevac’s side in Angola. Perhaps, that experience in the right back position might have informed Stevanovic not to invite Harrison Afful, a player who has been outstanding in the Confederation of African Football’s flagship club competition.

Hard as it may come to us, the most inexperienced position of the squad is the goalkeeping department, which only boasts of a single appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations ad even that is without any cap. Daniel Adjei holds this record as he went to Angola for the 27th edition of the nations cup. Unfortunately, Adjei will even go to Gabon-Equatorial Guinea as the second-choice goalkeeper. I stand to be corrected but Ghana has never sent an inexperienced goalkeeper as its first choice to a nations cup.

Regarding attackers, Asamoah Gyan, who will certainly lead Ghana’s attack has, strangely, only two appearances at the Cu of Nations to his credit. His botched debut on homesoil, which nearly cost his international career but for Didier Drogba and former President John Kufour’s pieces of advice, and his sole-shouldering effort also known as ‘One-Goal Project, at Angola in 2010. The other attacker with an experience is Prince Tagoe, who was at the 2006 Cup of nations in Egypt. The rest Jordan Ayew, Emmanuel Baffour and even Derek Asamoah have not set feet on Nations Cup soil. No wonder one of them, and possibly two, will not make the cut to Gabon-Equatorial Guinea.

The central defense’s top-notch experienced player in the nations cup is captain John Mensah with the 2002, 2006 and 2008 Africa Cup of Nations to his haul.

Let me not bore you too much with the positional statistics but among the 25 players called up by Goran Stevanovic, ten have not played at the Africa Cup of Nations. This constitutes 40% of the squad. Indeed out of the rest 60% (15 players), nine of them, which constitute 36% of the squad, have only appeared at the Africa Cup of Nations once. Only Andre Dede Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah and Anthony Annan join Gyan as the players to have a couple of appearances at Africa’s flagship tournament.

Dream of a fifth title

Generally, football smashes statistics but in an African tournament like the 2012 nations cup one cannot underestimate the contributions that these statistics can do to add to the superstitions of the African game. Undoubtedly, there is just a wafer-length difference between Stevanovic’s side and debutantes like Botswana, Niger and Equatorial Guinea. But if our dream of a fifth title comes through with this inexperienced squad, I will be the first to ask the Ghana Football Association to increase immoderately the salary of Coach Goran Stevanovic.

And just like Milovan Rajevac used a seemingly inexperienced side to reach the finals of the 2010 nations cup, Stevanovic can do same with his charges just that his burden has been made heavy as a result of the popularity of the Black Stars in global football currently. In other words, none of the teams gave Ghana a dog’s chance in 2010 but in 2012 the Black Stars, together with the Elephants(Cote d’Ivoire), Lions of Teranga(Senegal) and even the Stallions(Burkina Faso), will be the team to beat.




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