Ghana’s new signings test Brazil ahead of World Cup
While Brazil will fly to Qatar in November dreaming of winning a sixth World Cup, Ghana will be hoping the addition of diaspora reinforcements can re-establish the Black Stars as one of Africa’s top sides.
Undefeated in World Cup qualifiers, Brazil’s only competitive defeat since leaving Belgium in the quarter-finals in Russia in 2018 came against Argentina in the Copa America final last year. .
Ghana’s recent record looks far less impressive ahead of Friday’s game at Le Havre, one of the last two warm-up matches for the two nations ahead of the world showpiece.
A shock loss to Comoros in January forced Ghana to their first African Cup of Nations exit in 16 years.
But after the humiliation of that group stage debacle in Cameroon, Ghana bounced back by beating fierce West African rivals Nigeria to win a fourth World Cup in five tries.
He edged Nigeria on away goals and with the bitter memories of a failed AFCON still fresh, Ghana’s management team made it a matter of urgency to lay the net for new ones. players from afar.
Coach Otto Addo looked to his German roots to lure Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer and Stephan Ambrosius, both capped by Germany at Under-21 level, while Chris Hughton helped convince Tariq Lamptey to switch of allegiance to England.
Yet the most intriguing newcomer to the Ghana side is Inaki Williams, who earned a cap for his native Spain in a friendly in 2016.
Williams has made a record 239 consecutive La Liga appearances for Athletic Bilbao. His younger brother, Nico, was called up by Spain for the first time last week.
The 28-year-old qualifies through his parents, who left Ghana and crossed the Sahara desert barefoot before finally settling back in Bilbao shortly before Williams was born.
“Although I was born in Europe, I have my African roots and my Ghanaian blood,” Williams told BBC Sport Africa last month.
“I think now is the best time to make this decision. I don’t think I regret it because these trains (opportunities) only come through once.
“I was not going to have this opportunity anymore and I think I made the right choices. I will enjoy the moment, my roots and give back the chance that Ghana has given me.
Decision for life
Southampton defender Mohammed Salisu has also made himself available after refusing previous call-ups.
There are fears that the influx of new players could disrupt the harmony of the squad qualifying for the World Cup.
Addo, himself born in Germany to Ghanaian parents, is keen to stress to his dual nationals that choosing to represent the four-time African champions is “a decision of a lifetime”.
“It’s not just about the World Cup but also about other World Cups to come,” Addo, who played for Ghana at the 2006 World Cup, told the BBC World Football Podcast.
“This is the African Cup of Nations. It’s about winning, succeeding. So it’s not just about this one World Cup in Qatar.
Addo will have little time to integrate the newcomers with next Tuesday’s friendly against Nicaragua in Spain, the only other scheduled run-out before he names his final roster for Qatar.
The final will surely represent a last chance for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win a World Cup, but it could be the same for Neymar, still relatively young at 30.
The Brazilian said last year that he may not compete in a World Cup again, as his body and mind are strained.
But Neymar seems to have returned to the peak of his powers after a brilliant start to the season with Paris Saint-Germain.
He is three shy of Pelé’s national record of 77 goals for Brazil, and coach Tite believes a new generation of players are ready to share the load.
However, there was no place for Gabriel Jesus in his last squad despite the impressive striker since his July move from Manchester City to Arsenal.