Ghana – Team guide, key players, lineup, prediction

AFCON 2023 Ghana – Team guide, key players, lineup, prediction

Solace Chukwu 10:47 - 05.01.2024

All you need to know about the Black Stars of Ghana ahead of AFCON 2023

When you have waited as long as Ghana have for an Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) triumph, every new opportunity assumes an almost desperate hue, and that is the case once again for the Black Stars. 

And yet, optimism among the country’s faithful is at a proper low on account of recent results. Three wins from nine in 2023 is probably to blame, as well as the fact that those wins came against Angola, Central African Republic and Madagascar: hardly the cream of the crop. The Black Stars also scraped through qualifying, drawing all their matches on the road and only scoring eight goals in total.

Ghana’s current FIFA ranking of 61st in the world sees them perched just outside the top 10 in Africa. 

The history

Ghana’s rich history at the AFCON takes in four victories, the last of which came in 1982. The Black Stars were early pacesetters, but have since fallen away, thrice – most recently in 2015 – suffering the misfortune of defeat in the final since then.

Ghana suffered significant heartbreak in the final of AFCON 2015
Ghana suffered significant heartbreak in the final of AFCON 2015

Since coming within penalty kicks of a fifth title nine years ago, they have posted rather more pedestrian results, most recently exiting in the Group Stage at the hands of Comoros two years ago.

The coach and tactical approach

His background managing lowly clubs in English football cast Chris Hughton as a conservative, defence-first coach, and that perception has held so far in his time in charge of Ghana. And while the Black Stars have found success playing more reactively, there is a sense this is too reactive, even for them.

Ghana national team coach Chris Hughton
Ghana national team coach Chris Hughton

Shape-wise, it’s a 4-2-3-1, but ill-fitting selections and a lack of recognisable patterns of play means Ghana are often a difficult watch, especially when the onus is on them to force the issue. 

Key players

Having made quite the splash at the World Cup, Mohammed Kudus is backing up the hype with his performances weekly for West Ham. He also continues to be crucial for Ghana, with his ability to create something out of nothing crucial for a side with a paucity of attacking automatisms. Adept in all functions in the final third, if he plays poorly, the Black Stars almost certainly will too.

Jordan Ayew is much maligned, but he gets through a lot of defensive responsibility, and is valuable for getting the team up the pitch, either by winning fouls or carrying. Unlike in Cameroon two years ago, he comes into the tournament in quite decent form, which could make a difference for Ghana. 

If Mohammed Kudus plays well, he could make Ghana tick
If Mohammed Kudus plays well, he could make Ghana tick

Screening in front of the defence, a lot will rest on the shoulders of Lens midfielder Salis Abdul Samed, especially in the absence of stalwart Thomas Partey.

Young player to watch

Ernest Nuamah’s tools may need that final coat of refinement, but they are exciting nevertheless. A lightning quick dribbler with rapid feet who likes to cut in from the right onto his stronger foot, Nuamah off the bench would be a clear and present danger to opposing defences with his carrying and crossing from the half spaces. With Olympique Lyon’s struggles this season in Ligue 1, AFCON might actually be a welcome distraction for the 20-year-old.

Probable lineup

Richard Ofori; Alidu Seidu, Alexander Djiku, Nicholas Opoku, Gideon Mensah; Salis Abdul Samed, Iddrisu Baba; Inaki Williams, Mohammed Kudus, Jordan Ayew; Antoine Semenyo

Tournament prediction

This is far from vintage Ghana, and there is little to suggest progress from their AFCON debacle two years ago. However, Group B is not as exacting as it could have gotten for the Black Stars, so advancement to the knockouts is a fair expectation. Going beyond the Round of 16 might prove a step too far.