Pulse Sports' Emmanuel Ayamga runs through some of the winners and losers of the Black Stars squad named by Avram Grant.
The final 23-man squad for Ghana’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign has been named. But while some players were fortunate to have made the cut, others will feel hard done by their inability to make the squad.
Now the chapter has been closed. After the numerous debates on which players deserve to be named in the Black Stars squad, Avram Grant has put everything to bed with his final 23-man squad for the tournament in Gabon.
Of course there were surprises in the end, with certain players upsetting the odds to make it into the squad.
Pulse Sports takes a look at the biggest winners and losers in the aftermath of the squad release.
The newly signed Enyimba goalkeeper was on the initial list of players invited for training by Avram Grant but was dropped when the squad was pruned to 26. However a late pull-out by Rosenborg goalie Adam Larsen Kwarasay opened the door for the former Ashanti Gold man to be recalled into the national team set-up. And he was subsequently named as part of the squad to represent Ghana in Gabon. Dauda is yet to officially kick a ball for his new club and had a mixed season with Ashanti Gold last term. But for the late withdrawal of Kwarasay it would have been a tall order for Dauda to make the final 23-man squad. But he now has another opportunity to relaunch his international career.
Barnsley right-back Andy Yiadom is one of two debutants named in Ghana’s squad for the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. The English-born Ghanaian international has been called up twice already, but is yet to make an appearance in Black Stars colours. Yiadom has been included to serve as competition for Columbus Crew right-back Afful Harrison. But his invite comes at a time when Ghana lacks options in the full-back positions and the former Watford youth player is now on track to have a taste of international football. Perhaps it’s a time to become an international regular.
One of the surprise inclusions in Avram Grant’s squad was Edwin Gyimah. The Orlando Pirates player has been in and out of the Black Stars in the last three years. But his consistency at club level has earned him yet another national team call-up. Gyimah, known as a midfielder has been added to the squad as a defender and will battle for a starting spot with Jonathan Mensah and John Boye. Gyimah’s inclusion defies calls from certain quarters that he should be dropped, and the tournament will present him an opportunity to prove his detractors wrong – if he gets the chance to play.
The former U-20 star has seen his career blossom ever since moving to Sweden with AIK. The midfielder has been ever present for the Swedish side and his three goals in 2016 propelled Grant to name him in his squad. It has been an eventful year for him, but the crowning moment was when Ofori earned a call-up to represent Ghana at the 2017 AFCON. It could turn out to be the tournament that sees Ofori capture a place in the Black Stars first team.
Perhaps the player with the least appreciated CV on Avram Grant’s list is Bernard Tekpetey. The Schalke O4 youth player has scored four goals in the fourth tier, and has made just one senior appearance in the German topflight. Yet, he has somewhat found his way into Avram Grant’s squad for the Africa cup of Nations. Per the stats other players have performed better over the course of the year, but Tepketey will be thanking his Stars for being placed ahead of the others in the pecking order.
READ MORE: AFCON 2017 Fatau Dauda eyeing no. 1 spot
The biggest surprise when the squad was released was the omission of Latif Blessing. The Ghana Premier League best player and top scorer will feel very disappointed not to have made the cut. For a player who scored 17 goals from a playmaking role, being snubbed was the least he deserved and he will surely feel hard done by. Blessing was invited to partake in training sessions with the Black Stars at the St. Thomas Acquinas Park but was subsequently dropped from the squad. As a home-based player, playing at the AFCON would have been enhanced his stock, but that has passed him by.
Former Kotoko defender Rashid Sumaila was unfortunate to miss out on a place in Avram Grant’s squad for the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. The on-loan Al-Gharafa guardsman's form has been on the ascendancy after his move to the club and was mooted as a player to watch. Sumaila was also part of the players invited to train with the national team but failed to make it onto the initial 26-man squad named by the Israeli coach. For a player who has openly stated his dream to move to a “bigger” club in Europe, the tournament would have been a platform to attract potential suitors.
The Alanyaspor defender has had a strong start to the season in Turkey, and was hoping that sort of output would earn him a national team call-up. However, the technical handlers of the Black Stars had other ideas. Having also been invited as part of a preliminary Black Stars squad for training, the former Hearts of Oak man was snubbed for a place on the final list. He will no doubt be disappointed with the decision, especially looking at his consistency this season.
Abdul Majeed Waris
One man whose omission has sparked controversy is Lorient striker Abdul Majeed Waris. The all-action attacker has been part of the national team set-up ever since making his breakthrough in 2013. He was unfortunate to miss out on a place in the 2014 World Cup due to injury. Waris initially battled for form in the early stages of the season but has found his scoring boots of late. His return of 4 goals in as many games this season was however not enough to earn him a place on Avram Grant’s squad. Considering Waris has been a mainstay in recent Black Stars squads, dropping him at this point won’t come as good news to him.
Ghana’s highest scorer in 2016, Raphael Dwamena’s snub came as a major shock. His impressive record of 21 goals in 22 appearances for Austrian second tier side Austria Lustenau makes him one of the most lethal Ghanaian attackers working today. Dwamena was named on Ghana’s initial 26-man squad but was part of a trio of players dropped when the squad was cut down to 23. He would feel downhearted, especially after players with less superior goal returns were picked ahead of him.