Africa has never experienced this! Since the African Cup of Nation (AFCON) began in 1957, this is probably the most awaited contest and arguably the hottest in our time.
For your information, Africa has produced some of the best players in the world this year alone. For instance, no one can argue that Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah are the current darlings in the Premier League. Not to forget Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who together with Salah and Mane won this year’s Golden Boot award after scoring 22 goals each. What a wonder!
It will be a very big mistake to forget how Wilfried Zaha has helped Crystal Palace be where they are. But the mess will even be bigger if we fail to mention Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly, who is currently one of the hottest defenders in the world.
To strengthen our case, Ghana has also produced some of the sensational players who cause jitters to opponents at the mention of their names.
We remember Asamoah Gyan too well, right? Not to forget Andrew Ayew. However, there are some more high-quality Ghanian players (Black Stars).
Most of them were named in the provisional squad for AFCON 2019 by coach Kwesi Appiah.
Richard Ofori (Maritzburg United, South Africa, Lawrence Ati- Zigi (Sochaux, Montbeliard, France), and Felix Annan (Asante Kotoko, Ghana).
John Boye (Metz, France), Andy Yiadom (Reading, England, Abdul Baba Rahman (Reims, France), Lumor Agbenyenu (Goztepe A.S, Turkey), Kassim Nuhu, (Hoffenheim, Germany,) Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew SC, USA), Joseph Aidoo (Genk, Belgium), Nuhu Musa (St Gallen, Switzerland), Joseph Attamah (Basaksehir, Turkey), and Mohammed Alhassan (Hearts of Oak, Ghana)
Mubarak Wakaso (Deportivo Alaves, Spain), Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid, Spain), Kwadwo Asamoah (Internazionale, Italy), Ebenezer Ofori (New York FC, USA), Afriyie Acquah (Empoli, Italy), Andre Ayew ( Fenerbache, Turkey), Christian Atsu (Newcastle United, England), Samuel Owusu (Cukaricki, Serbia), Thomas Agyepong (Hibernian, Scotland), Yaw Yeboah (Numancia, Spain), Abdul Fatawu (Asante Kotoko, Ghana).
Asamoah Gyan (Kayserispor, Turkey), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace, England), Abdul Majeed Waris ( Nantes, France), Caleb Ekuban (Trabzonspor, Turkey and Kwabena Owusu (Leganes, Spain).
However, there are some notable sensational Ghanian players who were left out of the 29-man squad. Here is where we will centre our focus on;
Harrison Afful – Defender
Can you remember this Ghana’s right back?
Harrison Afful has become synonymous over the past five years. He has been to every AFCON tournament since 2013 and has amassed 80 appearances for the Black Stars since his emergence.
The Columbus Crew ace was having a good year playing 40 games since the start of last year. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken jaw against Atlanta United and has consequently been out of action since March 30.
According to Columbus Crew coach Caleb Porter, the experienced defender is on track to making a recovery from his injury and will be able to train by the end of May. Despite the timeline given by the coach, coach Kwesi Appiah decided to opt Harrison Afful from his squad.
Frank Acheampong – Winger
Frank Acheampong was a key member of Avram Grant’s 23 man squad for the 2017 AFCON. The 25-year old was officially included in the 2017 AFCON squad as a back-up left back but the feeling is he prefers to play much closer to the goal (on the wings).
The left winger was not included in the final Black Stars engagement before the call-up – games against Kenya and Mauritania, hence it could be inferred that the former Anderlecht winger was not included in the plans of coach Kwesi Appiah.
However, his numbers at club level are impressive. Acheampong, since making his move to Tianjin Teda permanent in November 2017, he has scored 17 goals for the Chinese club. He scored three goals and registered three assists in the 10-week old Chinese league this season.
Emmanuel Boateng – Striker
Only a few people can forget this Ghana’s sensational striker!
Boateng burst onto the international scene after scoring a quickfire hat-trick against Barcelona in 2018.
He capped off his international debut against Japan by scoring a penalty and was destined for a lasted spell in the Black Stars. Unfortunately, a dip in form and an enticing move to China has left Emmanuel Boateng in the wilderness with nobody able to make a case for the 22-year-old.
This season, he has managed just 1 goal each for Levante (former club) and Dalian Yifang (current club). The former Rio Ave striker was part of Ghana’s under-20 national team in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The overarching feeling amongst Ghanaians is that Emmanuel Boateng is still young an has a lot of years ahead of him. However, a better game against Kenya in Kumasi could have seen the Dalian Yifang striker in the squad.
Bernard Tekpetey – Striker
With just two international caps under his belt, his exclusion from the squad shouldn’t raise eyebrows. Yet, his club form speaks volume for the 21-year-old.
Last season, Bernard Tekpetey joined German side SC Paderborn who were in the Bundesliga II. Thanks to Tekpetey, SC Paderborn will be in the Bundesliga from next season. He scored 11 goals whilst providing four assists in 36 appearances.
Hypothetically, 15 goal contributions in a season coupled with league promotion should be enough to propel a player into the Black Stars squad.
His numbers are better than the five strikers – Jordan Ayew (2 goals), Asamoah Gyan (4 goals), Caleb Ekuban (5 goals) Kwabena Owusu (10 goals), and Majeed Waris (8 goals) – invited by the head coach.
However, for Tekpetey, that won’t be enough as his deficit in terms of international experience proved to be the tiebreaker albeit making the 2017 AFCON squad. Just as Emmanuel Boateng, Tekpetey has time on his side and is definitely one for the future.
Richmond Boakye Yiadom – Striker
We stand with the Ghanaians for protesting the omission of Richmond Boakye Yiadom from the provisional squad. Why?
He is a striker with better numbers compared to five selected. Since the start of 2018, Richmond Boakye Yiadom has scored 16 goals at club level. His omission comes as a shock considering his numbers.
In the 2018/19 season, Boakye Yiadom scored 13 league goals in just 15 matches. His feat even looks more appetising after factoring in the fact that he missed about three weeks of action after sustaining an injury at Mladost.
The Red Star Belgrade forward has been equally impressive whilst representing Black Stars of Ghana, six goals in 13 caps makes a good enough case for the 26-year-old.
The case of Yiadom is a strange one because strikers are supposed to score goals and that is what he has been doing over the last year.
Arguably, the biggest shock in term of omissions from the squad because this essentially means Ghana will be going to this year’s AFCON without the country’s top scorer in Europe.
Of course, the head coach Kwesi Appiah still has a good time to rethink and consider making some changes in the squad for the sake of a better return.
Do you think the five players deserve to be included in the Black Stars squad? Leave your comments below.