World Cup 2014 Expert Interview: Ghana’s expectations, Akwasi Appiah and more

As part of our World Cup coverage, we have interviewed journalists, correspondents, experts & writers representing each of the 32 countries to give you, the readers, a better understanding of the 32 nations participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Here are the list of interviewees.

Ghana World Cup Interview

For this interview, focusing on Ghana, writer for African Soccer & KingFut.com, admin at Ghana Premier League Live. Follow him on Twitter @Freddie_GH

After overachievement in 2006 & 2010, another surprise run is certainly a possibility. But are expectations considerably higher than they should be? Is there reason to believe they can do it again?

Yes! There are reasons to believe they can spring another surprise. Most of the players are no longer “having a dream” to be in the World Cup, it’s a reality for most of them now. They’ve tasted it, they’ve known victory, they’ve done it before hence there is a strong belief among the squad that they can make it. Logically everything looks like there will/should be another fantastic run by the Black Stars. In 2006, their first World Cup they managed to reach the round of 16 only to be eliminated by Brazil, in 2010, they got to the quarter finals and were just a kick away from the semi-final so by logical reasoning, it looks like there might be another fantastic run in Brazil.

It’s a refreshing change to see an African coach leading the side at a World Cup. A head coach like Kwasi Appiah understands the country, it’s hopes and the players much better. Do you think it’s an advantage to have a homegrown coach, or would a foreign coach have been a wiser option?

I would say a home grown coach, or as we say here a “local coach” is better. The first advantage is the language, he can communicate freely with the guys in our ‘local’ dialect to ensure smooth passage of information. The last time in South Africa, we had a coach who couldn’t even speak English or any local dialect, and he found it difficult to interact with the players and had to communicate to them only through a translator. Additionally, the coach himself is a former Black Stars players so he will understand the players more.

Tactically how does Akwasi Appiah set-up, what is his footballing philosophy and how does this compare to past Ghanian World Cup sides?

Kwasi Appiah is now playing the Ghanaian style/way. A possession based 4-4-2 formation with a lot of attacking play. He loves to attack with two top strikers/attackers with one staying just behind the goal-getter, and two central midfielders with sharp and pacey powerful wingers. He sometimes uses an attacking midfielder behind the main striker in case he is unsure about 2 strikers. His predecessor at the World Cup in South Africa, had a different way of playing. There was one out and out striker, and a packed midfield and tight defence behind this striker. The side was very cautious in their set up. Kwasi Appiah’s approach is very different from this.

Kwadwo Asamoah, who plays on the left very effectively for Juventus, is generally employed through the middle for Ghana. But with some of Essien’s excellent recent performances at national level, does Appiah feel tempted to shift Asamoah out wide?

Kwadwo Asamoah has been the country’s top player for sometime now but he doesn’t get as much recognition because of his sacrifice for his teams, both club and country. Yes he can be on the flanks as a winger or a left-wing back, but he can also serve as a central attacking midfielder or a number 10 (playmaker). The Juventus man loves it when he is on the wide left, and he plays in the middle when there is an emergency. Because he does it well, he makes it easy for the coach to try someone as an alternative in his place. However, based on the squad selected for the World Cup, surely Asamoah will be shifted to wide as there are a lot players to fill the void in the midfield where he would have played as emergency. There are a number of quality players in the middle, and this is why Asamoah will play on the left, something that he loves to do.

2014 FIFA World Cup Group G

Ghana certainly possess a whole host of quality players but where do you see the creativity coming from? Do we expect it to be from one of the household-names or is there a lesser known star?

Not many will acknowledge him as a star, but Vitesse’s player of the season, Christian Atsu is a man to watch. Personally I think if he is given the nod he will be the star man and be a real creative force in the team. However, if he is not given the chance, I think Kevin Prince Boateng will be the iconic figure with the creative touch. Kwadwo Asamoah, with his quick feet, could also work some magic for the team.

In a group where all four teams have a somewhat realistic chance of qualifying to the next round, Ghana’s chances aren’t quite that simple. Where do you realistically see the side progressing till? What would be considered a success?

Ghana have to face USA in the first game, Germany next and we conclude the group with Portugal. It will be a very tough group for Ghana. Anyone who looks at the group will quickly pick Germany and Portugal to make it through to the next round. But what happened in 2006 in Germany has given Ghanaians including me good reason to be optimistic. Ghana were drawn with Czech Repulic, Italy and the USA, all of whom were in the top 10 according to FIFA rankings before the tournament began. Ghana were not given a chance but they made it through with 6 points only losing to eventual winners Italy. I would not join the judges to say Portugal and Germany will make it to the next stage as I see it as a very open group. What will be considered a success? That’s a tricky question. 2006 we made it to the round of 16, 2010, we got to the quarter finals, so for 2014 I want us to be in the semi finals.But realistically, even a quarter final appearance will be a success for me.

Read all our World Cup Interviews here, and all other WC2014 related content here.