Kwesi Appiah

World Cup Today: Argentina, Germany both hoping for second win

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WORLD CUP TODAY: SATURDAY, JUNE 21

Yesterday, Costa Rica qualified for the next round with a 1-0 victory over Italy, knocking England out of the tournament in the process. Then came an absolute goalfest between France and Switzerland, with France scoring five before deciding to be generous, and allowing Switzerland a less-embarrassing 5-2 defeat. Any match after that was bound to a a let-down, but Ecuador still did their best to entertain with a 2-1 comeback against Honduras.

Now, get comfy on your couch or find a decent table at the bar, because you’re not going to want to miss any of Saturday’s matches.

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MATCH 27: ARGENTINA VS. IRAN
Location: Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide

Argentina showed they aren’t invincible in the first game, with coach Alejandro Sabella electing to roll out five defenders against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite taking a 1-0 lead into the break, the albiceleste looked rather impotent, and were only ahead thanks to Bosnia’s own goal in the third minute. But Sabella switched to a 4-3-3 for the second half, highlighting Argentina’s impressive attack and culminating in a 2-1 victory.

Iran’s first match, on the other hand, went as expected. Both they and Nigeria played defensively, giving us the tournament’s first goalless draw.

What they’re saying

Lionel Messi on Alejandro Sabella’s decision to switch tactics mid-match: “As strikers we prefer that system as it gives us more attacking opportunities and if we don’t use that system we suffer a bit. We as strikers favour that line-up. In the first half I was often on my own and so was Kun (Aguero) and it was very difficult, so there are things to be improved on.”

History
Argentina and Iran have faced off just once, resulting in a 1-1 draw. Most think there will be a rather different result this time around.

Premier League Players
Argentina: Manchester City loves Argentina, with Pablo Zabaleta, Martín Demichelis and Sergio Agüero all part of the squad

MLS Players
Iran: Steve Beitashour plies his trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 28: GERMANY VS. GHANA

Location: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
Time: 3pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
It was all too easy for Germany the first time around. Portugal were already down by two goals when Pepe decided to nuzzle Thomas Müller lovingly with his head, getting himself sent off and thus permitting his enemy to easily score two more. Germany ended the day with a 4-0 win.

As for Ghana, well, we all know that story, don’t we? Clint Dempsey scored within seconds, but André Ayew pulled one back with less then ten minutes to go. John Brooks put in the winner minutes later, giving the USMNT the 2-1 win.

Oh, and two brothers face off today: Jerome Boateng for Germany, Kevin-Prince Boateng for Ghana. Granted, Jerome’s not likely to see much time, but it’s still pretty neat.

What they’re saying

Kwesi Appiah insists Ghana’s performance against the U.S. was not due to unpaid bonuses: “I’m surprised to hear this. I mean, fine. Some of the money hasn’t been paid yet, but…if you look at the performance today, it’s got nothing to do with money. We created a lot of chances but we didn’t take them.”

History
Germany have won both times the two teams have faced off, with a combined scoreline of 7-1. Will Ghana fare better this time?

Premier League players
Germany: Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski (Arsenal); André Schürrle (Germany)

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MATCH 29: NIGERIA VS. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Location: Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá
Time: 6pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Bosnia did a good job of keeping Leo Messi quiet in their first game, but still came away with a 2-1 loss to Argentina. Nigeria, meanwhile, kept quiet in general, notching a 0-0 draw with Iran.

What they’re saying
Safet Sušić on how his Bosnia side aren’t just “happy to be in Brazil”: “But we haven’t come here to learn, we have players in top class European clubs, players who have acquired a great deal of experience. We have self-imposed ambitions to make it out of the group, and so not come here for people to see us, we have ambitions to progress out of the group, it won’t be easy, but I’m convinced we haven’t said our last words.”

History:
They’re about to write it.

Premier League players
Nigeria: John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses (Chelsea); Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Asmir Begović (Stoke City); Edin Džeko (Manchester City)

Ghana’s Gyan: “We dominated the game”; Team laments late lapse vs US

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For all the highs in America, there are heads hanging low in Ghana.

But that doesn’t mean Ghana star Asamoah Gyan is giving up hope for the 2014 World Cup after his nation’s 2-1 loss to the United States in Monday’s Group G match.

The man whose pregame quotes said the Black Stars were “the more talented team” is confident that his team’s performance has some places to hang hats.

From Ghanaweb.com:

“I think we did well,” Gyan told AllSports.com.gh. “We dominated the game but we were a bit nervous in the beginning. We lost concentration and the early goal made us even more nervous. When we equalised, we did not concentrate and then conceded from a corner kick which was not good.”

Gyan must now pick up the rest of the team for a crunch game against Germany who were ruthless in their 4-0 thrashing of Portugal earlier in the day.

He said: “Germany have won by four goals so their confidence is high, we have lost and want to come back strongly. We have to stay focused. The confidence is still there even though we have lost. We still have the quality. We don’t have to give up for no reason at all.”

Ghana head coach Kwesi Appiah had similar feelings:

“I think that early goal was a disaster, it was unfortunate,” Appiah said post-match.

“Loss of concentration cost us big time. All I can say is that it was a very tough game and when you play at this high level any little mistake can cost you dearly.”

A win against Germany is a must for Ghana, while the United States will hope to put themselves on an easier road with a Sunday win against Portugal.

Ghana rout of South Korea puts U.S. weekend in different perspective

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After two days of considering what a 2-1 win over Nigeria meant for the United States’ World Cup readiness, a Group G rival has put that result in a more modest perspective. On Monday, Ghana, who has eliminated the U.S. from the last two World Cups, posted a decisive result over World Cup-qualified South Korea in Miami, with three goals from Jordan Ayew leading the Black Stars to a 4-0 win at Sun Life Stadium.

Coming of the bench early for an injured Majeed Waris, Ayew put his team in front in the 13rd minute  with a shot that deflected off midfielder Ki Song-Yeung. Captain Asamoah Gyan’s one-man transition just before halftime doubled Ghana’s lead moments before intermission.

In the 53rd minute, Ayew, whose brother André started for Kwesi Appiah’s team, scored from outside the area to extend his side’s lead. One minute from full-time, a close range finish completed the Marseille attacker’s hat trick, giving Ghana a four-goal win in the team’s final showing before facing the U.S. on June 16.

Appiah’s reaction after the match, courtesy of the Associated Press:

”It was a good friendly match,” coach James Appiah said. ”It was important we put out a good team. Everyone who paid to come in here got his money’s worth.”

Even so, Appiah said Ghana’s not quite ready for its game against the United States next Monday in Natal, Brazil.

”It’s fine we won, but we still have some work to do,” Appiah said.

Work to do or not, the bottom line was impressive for the Ghanaians, but for a U.S. fan, impressed may be one of an array of reactions to the lopsided result. Curiosity, concern, trepidation – after seeing what’s become a bogey team rout another World Cup qualifier one week before they face the U.S., fans would be rightfully concerned how their team’s shown against Nigeria compares to Ghana’s current level.

These are just friendlies, so there’s only so worried anybody should get about the results, yet the opponent Ghana routed makes it hard to dismiss outcome. Whereas two weeks ago the U.S. was having trouble breaking down Azerbaijan, Ghana just embarrassed a team that’s going to Brazil – one that made it to the Round of 16 four years ago. And though the Black Stars lost 1-0 to the Netherlands last week, that was a close match against a level of competition the U.S. hasn’t in its buildup. Given that match was in Rotterdam, the scoreline looks borderline impressive.

There’s a bottom line here that serves as a wet blanket for U.S. expectations. After a performance against Nigeria that was mildly lauded, the Americans don’t look so great anymore. That feels harsh  given these are only friendlies, the teams aren’t facing each other, and the game that counts is still seven days off, but there just isn’t any good news for the U.S. in a 4-0 win by Ghana.

If he and staff were likely on site in Miami, Jurgen Klinsmann got a new idea of what his team will be up against next Monday in Natal. Regardless, Ghana certainly looks more dangerous now than they did a few hours ago.

 

2014 World Cup Team Preview: Ghana

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Getting to know… Ghana

The Black Stars, four-time continental champions, are one of the most successful teams in African history, with their quarterfinal appearance at the 2010 World Cup matching an the continent’s best finish in FIFA’s quadrennial showcase. Had it not been for a dramatic Luis Suárez hand ball and a penalty miss from Asamoah Gyan, the team would have gotten one step farther, yet in the United States, the nation of Abedi Pele, Samuel Kuffour, Stephen Appiah and Michael Essien is known for only one thing: Knocking the U.S. out of the last two World Cups.

Since their last win over the States in 2010, Ghana has been relatively humbled, finishing fourth at the last two African Cup of Nations tournaments. In World Cup qualifying, however, the Black Stars reasserted their place in Africa’s pecking order. The West African nation will be appearing at its third straight World Cup.

Record in qualifying

Drawn into a qualifying group with Zambia, Lesotho, and Sudan, Ghana lost only one of six games, putting up a +15 goal difference en route to Africa’s playoff round. Drawn against Egypt, Ghana delivered another blow to head coach Bob Bradley, using a 6-1 win in leg one to cruise past the Pharaohs, 7-3 over two legs.

What group are they in? 

From the Ghanaians’ point of view, the Group G’s only reprieve is the United States – a team Ghana’s proven it can beat. Against Germany and Portugal, however, the Black Stars will be heavy underdogs, even if the Seleccao presents a chance to qualify for another knockout round.

Game schedule:

16 June, 18:00, Natal – Ghana vs. United States

22 June, 16:00, Fortaleza – Germany vs. Ghana

26 June, 12:00, Brasilia – Portugal vs. Ghana

Star player: Asamoah Gyan

Ghana has no shortage of name talents, from Milan’s Essien and Sulley Muntari to fellow midfielders André Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah and Kevin Prince-Boateng. The most consistent presence of the team’s name talents, however, is former Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan. Most famous for missing the 2010 penalty kick that would have put Ghana into the final four, the 28-year-old 39 goals in 78 international appearances makes him the one proven scoring threat in Appiah’s starting lineup.

Skilled, pacey, and intelligent, the Ghanaian captain has scored 100 goals for United Arab Emirates club Al Ain since moving to the Middle East three years ago. For his national team, the long-time lone striker is now being helped up top by Spartak Moscow’s Majeed Waris, whose speed may open up space for his veteran partner.

Manager: Kwesi Appiah

An assistant in 2012 and former coach of Ghana’s U-23 team, the former Black Stars defender took over as head coach in April 2012. Choosing freedom for his players over tactical nuance, the 53-year-old has implemented a basic 4-4-2 to leverage the virtues of his talented core. If Appiah doesn’t revert to a five-man midfield (as he did in a recent friendly against the Netherlands), players like Asamoah, Boateng and Christian Atsu will be given the room to pursuit their opportunities, something that will hopefully present goals for Gyan.

Secret weapon: Mohammed Rabiu

Asamoah, Ayew, Boateng, Essien, and Muntari may not be assured starting spots, but Rabiu, a 24-year-old who plays in Russia with Kuban Krasnodar, looks set to be Appiah’s destroyer. A member of the Ghana team that won the 2009 U-20 World Cup, Rabiu’s energy in front of the defense will be important in protecting the weakest part of the Black Stars’ team. Tall, lanky, and with only 16 games of international experience, the former Evian midfielder will anchor whatever midfield Appiah decides to build around him.

Prediction: Like the U.S., Ghana is capable of both making the knockout round or finishing at the bottom of its group. Given a back four where pursuit is often more prominent than prudence, it’s difficult to see the Black Stars claiming the two results they’ll need to make it out of Group G.

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)