Kwadwo Asamoah

African Footballer of the Year shortlist: Yaya Toure goes for four in a row, MLS player makes it

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Yaya Toure is looking to become the first player to win four-straight African Footballer of the Year awards, as the Manchester City star has been named as one of 25 players on the CAF shortlist.

The Ivory Coast leader held off John Obi Mikel, Didier Drogba and Seydou Keita from 2011-13, and will have to beat a host of players from big name clubs if he wants to join Samuel Eto’o as the only players to have won the award four times.

FIFA reports that South Africa’s Senzo Meyiwa, murdered last month, is on the list of players who can win the award given to those who play solely on the continent.

Crystal Palace has the list, as it announced its Democratic Republic of Congo winger, Yannick Bolasie, is on the list along with AS Roma’s Gervinho, Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony and Tottenham Hotspur’s Emmanuel Adebayor.

[ RELATED: Both sides of Manchester in injury trouble ]

There’s an MLS player in the mix as well, as Philadelphia Union goalkeeper and Algerian World Cup hero Rais M’Bohli made the list.

Toure is the clear favorite to win the award, though Algeria’s strong World Cup could give a boost to one of its four members on the list: Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon), Yacine Brahimi (Porto), Keita (AS Roma) and M’Bohli.

The winner will be announced on Jan. 8, 2015. Here’s the list in full:

2014 African Footballer of the Year shortlist
Ahmed Musa – (Nigeria, CSKA Moscow)
Asamoah Gyan – (Ghana, Al Ain)
Dame N’doye – (Senegal, Lokomotiv Moscow)
Emmanuel Adebayor – (Togo, Tottenham)
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting – (Cameroon, Schalke 04)
Fakhreddine Ben Youssef – (Tunisia, CS Sfaxien)
Ferdjani Sassi – (Tunisia, CS Sfaxien)
Gervinho – (Cote d’Ivoire, AS Roma)
Islam Slimani – (Algeria, Sporting Lisbon)
Kwadwo Asamoah – (Ghana, Juventus)
source: Getty Images
M’Bohli

Mehdi Benatia – (Morocco, Bayern Munich)

Mohamed El Neny – (Egypt, Basel)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – (Gabon, Borussia Dortmund)
Raïs M’Bolhi – (Algeria, Philadelphia Union)
Sadio Mané – (Senegal, Southampton)
Seydou Kieta –  (Mali, As Roma)
Sofiane Feghouli – (Algeria, Valencia)
Stephane Mbia – (Cameroon,  Sevilla)
Thulani Serero – (South Africa, Ajax)
Vincent Aboubakar – (Cameroon, Porto)
Vincent Enyeama – (Nigeria, Lille)
Wilfried Bony –  (Cote d’Ivoire, Swansea)
Yacine Brahimi – (Algeria, Porto)

Yannick Bolasie – (DR Congo, Crystal Palace)
Yaya Toure – (Cote d’Ivoire, Man City)

Cristiano taketh away, and Cristiano giveth: Portugal beats Ghana 2-1 late

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s point-blank goal in the 80th minute allowed American soccer fans to breathe and condemned Ghana to four years of torment, as Portugal defeated Ghana 2-1 in their Group G finale.

Ronaldo had all kinds of trouble beating Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda, and it took a Ghanaian gaffe to give Portugal its first goal.

Miguel Veloso’s cross into the box was deflected past Dauda by Ghana defender John Boye, giving Portugal a 1-0 lead.

As if informed Germany had gone up 1-0, Ghana’s star — Asamoah Gyan — headed home a cross from Juventus’ Kwadwo Asamoah to make the game more dramatic at 1-1.

The match was a combination of borderline tackles and big hits on Ronaldo. Clearly, Ghana was abiding by the Atletico Madrid, USA and German philosophy of tackling the heck out of one of the world’s elite talents.

Ghana nearly put doom in the American hopes in the 61st minute, when Majeed Waris turned a point-blank header wide of the goal off a brilliant cross from Gyan.

The CAF side picked up a dangerous free kick from 10 yards inside the corner flag and just inside the end line, but Portugal cleared the 68th minute chance. Ghana was looming and Portugal was looking beat-up.

That might be an overstatement. While the rested Black Stars were racing up the flanks, Portugal was barely keeping up.

But just as it was going to be over for the States, Ronaldo pounced on a botched Dauda catch to score the winner.

Lineups

Portugal: Beto, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Veloso, William Carvalho, Ronaldo (c), Moutinho, Eder (Vieirinha, 70′), Nani, Amorim, Pereira (Varela, 61′)

Goals: Boye o.g. (31′), Ronaldo (80′)

Ghana: Dauda, Gyan (c), Atsu, Agyemang Badu, A. Ayew, Rabiu (Afriyje, 76′), Waris (J. Ayew, 71′), Mensah, Asamoah, Boye, Afful

Goals: Gyan

Tighter than expected: Talking points after Germany’s draw with Ghana

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Call it the Group of Death if you want, but after Ghana tripped up Germany in Fortaleza, Group G at this year’s World Cup is all about opportunity. Four teams, all vulnerable in their own way, are challenging our notions of order and predictability, bringing some welcome uncertainty to what some saw as a top-heavy group:

  • Germany is the best team on paper, but although they controlled more of the ball on Saturday, Ghana were just as good.
  • Yet that Ghana team fell to a U.S. side that didn’t concede the opportunities they saw against the Germans. Though the Black Stars eventually found a way, they also gave up two goals en route to a 2-1 loss.
  • And that U.S. team that looked so solid against Ghana? Unfortunately, the wasn’t much more than that organized approach. Can the team generate enough chances to force their way into the knockout round?
  • And Portugal? Who knows, but their toughest game may be behind them, and in Cristiano Ronaldo, they still have one of the two best players in the world. They may collapse under the absences of Pepe, Fabio Coentrão, and Rui Patricio, but they also have the talent to take six points in their final games.

That’s the chaotic state of Group G after today’s match in Fortaleza. Here’s three other takeaways from the 2-2 result:

[ MORE: Klose equalizer salvages result for Germany ]
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1. The gap is smaller than we thought – Germany were the clear group favorites — they are the clear group favorites — but as we’ve been reminded throughout Brazil 2014, the gap between the titans and the pack just isn’t that big. Perhaps that’s because of the increasingly demanding European season. Maybe it’s the challenges of a tournament in a large country with varying climates. Regardless, huge pre-tournament favorites like Argentina, Brazil, and Spain have been proven flawed, if not outright overrated.

Today, Germany joined that group, but the credit needs to go to Ghana. In the first half, we saw what the potential of that German attack, but a series of strong plays from defender John Boye helped keep the favorites off the board. As bad as Boye was against the U.S., he was that valuable on Saturday.

Boye wasn’t the only player who stepped up. André Ayew won a one-on-one battle with Shkodran Mustafi on Ghana’s opening goal, while a great play from Sulley Muntari allowed the Milan midfielder to create a turnover and set up Asamoah Gyan’s 63rd minute finish. Late in the match, Jonathan Mensah and Kwadwo Asamoah made penalty box stops as Germany fought through their fatigue and pressed for a winner.

Germany played well on Saturday, but so did Ghana. The gap between the two teams was just smaller than we thought.

2. Löw’s fullback lament – Germany has attacking talent that rivals any nation in the world, but they’ve slowing become the European Argentina. For all the danger they pose going forward, there are serious questions at the back, where the national team remains vulnerable.

Particularly with Philipp Lahm playing in the middle, those problems are at full back. Jerome Boateng, more comfortable in central defense, started at right back. Benedikt Höwedes, more comfortable in central defense, started at left back. When Joachim Löw made a change at half time, bringing in Shkodran Mustafi for Boateng at halftime, it cost him. The Lazio defender was beaten for Ghana’s first goal.

Löw has often lamented his lack of options at full back, but he has alternatives. With Bastian Schweinsteiger an option in the middle, perhaps Lahm can be moved back to his natural position.

Or maybe defense is just a flaw the Germans have to overcome. Regardless, as Ghana showed throughout Saturday’s 90 minutes, Löw’s team remains vulnerable at the back, making it even more important they maintain control of the ball.

3. It wasn’t ideal, but things are still breaking nicely for the U.S. – A Germany win could have dealt Ghana a mortal blow, but things continue to look up for the U.S. With a win tomorrow, they secure a place in the knockout round.

That fate would have been the same with a Germany win, however, so how does today’s draw change the States’ picture? Ghana, now capable of getting to four points, will be alive on Thursday, no matter what. Plus, Germany has something to play for against the U.S. There’s no scenario that puts the Germans through before they kick off in Recife.

The upside for the States? They have a viable route to claiming first in Group G. Two points will put them into the knockout round, but four points win the group. Instead of Belgium in the round of 16, the U.S. could face Algeria, Russia, or South Korea …

… provided they get there at all. As today’s result in Fortaleza reminds us, nothing’s guaranteed in this year’s World Cup.

At halftime: Possession not enough as Germany held by Ghana — FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: The six Bayern Munich starters in Germany’s team will be used to this huge edge in possession, but with Ghana eschewing pressure to stay organized at the back, Group G’s favorites have been left hoping the combination of through balls and passes send across the six-yard box will pay off. Through 45 minutes, no dice, with Germany and Ghana going to halftime scoreless for the second straight World Cup.

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Goals: They’re coming. I think. As much possession as Germany has had, Ghana’s also had their moments near the favorites’ goal.

Other key moments:

7′ – The match’s first chance has gone the way of the Black Stars, who saw almost nothing of the ball over the match’s first six minutes. Yet after a long diagonal from left back Kwadwo Asamoah finds Christian Atsu deep on the right, the German defense is opened up, giving striker Asamoah Gyan space to attack the near post. Atsu cuts back and puts a left-footed ball across the top of the six, but Gyan puts his shot into the seats.

11′ – Germany’s begun having success finding runners cutting through the Ghanian defense. This time, Mesut Özil’s run behind Ghana’s left is regarded with a chance to find Thomas Müller in the middle of the area. After turning on what looks like a right-footed shot, the Bayern Munich attacker rolls a back pass to Toni Kroos. The midfielder’s blast from just beyond the penalty box is blocked by Jonathan Mensah.

13′ – Manuel Neuer is called into action, with a long blast from Atsu forcing the German goalkeeper into a diving stop. Before the Germans can regain possession, André Ayew has room to play a ball across the top of the six, though Germany’s defense handles the chance.

21′ – Germany’s first true moment of danger sees Ghanaian defender John Boye step up. On a ball played wide right, Özil is allowed time to cut in and play a cross to the edge of the six-yard box. Müller, coming off a game one hat trick, is there, but a sliding challenge from Boye keeps the German attacker from putting a shot on goal. Played off Müller, the ball goes out for a Black Stars goal kick.

29′ –  Asamoah, tested throughout the half, misjudges a long ball, allowing Mario Götze to get behind him. Boye, however, steps up again. Trying to find Müller in the middle of goal, Götze sees his pass blocked by the sliding Black Star, who plays the ball out for a corner.

33′ – A cross from Ghana’s right for Gyan is brought down but easily poked away. Unfortunately, the German defense is caught flat-footed, allowing Sulley Muntari to come from deep and one-time a swerving shot toward Neuer. The punch is easy enough, but on a try from 32 yards, Neuer was at the mercy of Suntari’s aim as Ghana drew another save.

36′ – Germany finally goes left, but the story’s the same. Played behind the defense, Özil tries another ball across the top of the six. Again, Boye is there to put the ball out for a corner.

Lineups:

Germany: Neuer; Howedes, Hummels, Boateng, Mertesacker; Lahm, Khedira, Kroos; Gotze, Muller, Ozil

Ghana: Dauda; Afful, Mensah, Boye, Asamoah; Rabiu, Muntari, Atsu, A. Ayew; Boateng, Gyan

Key Players:

  • Kwadwo Asamoah, Ghana – The Juventus wide man is his defense’s most recognizable name, something that hasn’t prevented the Germans from going at him. Though he started the match strong, Asamoah was too often seen chasing play moving back toward his own goal. Whether Asamoah needs to improve or get help from his teammates, Ghana’s left need to provide a deterrent.
  • Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira, Germany – When the Germans do get behind Asamoah, they’re quickly playing across goal, but Müller’s back pass in 11th minute hints there are other options. If the Germans can get Kroos or Khedira forward, they can make Ghana pay for having to fall back to that six-yard box. Given how quickly the Germans are playing, that’s easier said than done, but if Joachim Löw is willing to play one of his midfielders higher up, he may be able to take advantage of Ghana without sacrificing the numbers he’s playing along the Black Stars’ defense.

Question for the second half:

  • Can Ghana afford to hold out? – Say the Black Stars defense is up to this challenge. Their organization problems at the back don’t resurface, and Boye continues to clean up anything sent in front of Dauda’s goal. Let’s say all they need to do is stay this course. Is that even a good thing? Ghana might end up with a 0-0 draw, but they’d be on one point headed into a game three showdown against Portugal. Can Ghana afford to hold out, or did their loss to the U.S. make this a must win?

Ghana World Cup roster announced

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Ghana has named its 23-man squad for the 2014 World Cup, and coach Kwesi Appiah has put tournament debutantes on the list.

There are plenty of familiar faces, however. Fans of the USMNT, who were drawn alongside the Black Stars in Group G, remember Asamoah Gyan – and not with fondness. In 2010, the forward scored a goal in extra-time to knock the U.S. out of the World Cup. Others, of course, will remember him for failing to convert the penalty brought on by Luis Suárez’s fateful handball. Gyan is likely hoping that his third trip to the tournament will bring more joy.

Other players who helped get Ghana to the quarterfinals in 2010 include Kevin-Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari, Kwadwo Asamoah and Michael Essien. André Ayew went to the last Cup as well, but this is brother Jordan Ayew’s first tournament. Older brother Ibrahim Ayew stays behind.

As does defender Jerry Akaminko, who was stretchered off during the friendly with Netherlands on Saturday night. Leicester City defender Jeffrey Schlupp and striker David Accam also failed to make the cut.

Ghana 2014 World Cup Squad

Goalkeepers: Fatau Dauda (Orlando Pirates), Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset), Stephen Adams (Aduana Stars)

Defenders: Samuel Inkoom (Platanias), Daniel Opare (Porto), Harrison Afful (Esperance), John Boye (Rennes), Jonathan Mensah (Evian), Rashid Sumaila (Mamelodi Sundowns)

Midfielders: Michael Essien (AC Milan), Sulley Muntari (AC Milan), Rabiu Mohammed (Kuban Krasnodar), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese), Afriyie Acquah (Parma), Christian Atsu (Vitesse Arnhem), Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough), Andre Ayew (Marseille), Wakaso Mubarak (Rubin Kazan)

Forwards: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Schalke), Abdul Majeed Waris (Valenciennes), Jordan Ayew (Sochaux)