Saturday, September 24, 2022

Ghana, the Brazil of Africa, want revenge against the real Brazil

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

It is unclear who gave Ghana that nickname, but there are a few theories. Between 1949 and 1956, there were three tours by African national teams to Britain. The first was by the Nigerian national team in September 1949. That was followed, in 1951, by a Gold Coast XI (the name changed to Ghana six years later following independence) who toured England and Ireland, and then a Ugandan XI in 1956.

Football historians say it was Ghana’s flair and style that led to the likening to Brazil. For a few decades after that UK tour, the Black Stars justified the hype, sambaing their way to three Africa Cup of Nations trophies, and other minor ones, within 32 years.

But since 1982, the Brazil of Africa have won nothing – major or minor – at senior level, while the real Brazil have won 12 major titles – World Cup (twice), Copa América (six times), and Confederations Cup (four).

Clearly, the two teams do not belong in the same WhatsApp group anymore.

WITH QATAR IN MIND

Neymar, a ridiculously talented 19-year-old in that 2011 game against Ghana in London (now aged 30 and still ridiculously talented), will start when the two nations face-off again on Friday. Thiago Silva, then 27, now 38, played the full game, as did Neymar. Danilo, then a promising U-20 national team player understudying Dani Alves at right back, had been invited, but did not play. He now owns the role.

For Ghana, then 20-year-old Jordan Ayew (and now 31) is the only surviving member of the team that lost to the Seleção. His elder brother, André, would have definitely played, too, but for injury. Now 32, he’ll captain a new-look Black Stars hoping to forge a cohesive unit ahead of the World Cup.

“We are assembling different generations and different cultures into one unit, and making sure they bond quickly during this international break is priority,” assistant coach George Boateng admits, knowing that a good performance in Qatar will depend heavily on how the quartet of players who have just switched nationalities will gel: Inaki Williams (forward from Spain), Tariq Lamptey (defender/winger from England), and Ransford-Yeboah Königsdörffer (forward from Germany).

The atmosphere around the Black Stars is optimistic, if uncertain, in part because of the so-called bad luck in games against Brazil: a 2-8 thrashing in 1996, a 0-3 loss with a red card in 2006, a 0-1 loss in 2007, another 0-1 defeat with a red card in 2011.

Derek Boateng, a member of the last three meetings between the two sides (’06, ’07, ’11), swats the notion that the Black Stars showed their more illustrious counterparts too much respect. “If anything, we took the games too personally. Maybe we went in too aggressively,” he tells SuperSport.

He urges Otto Addo to “try and psychologically calm the boys down before the game because they will definitely be super hyper by now.”

Brazil don’t joke, yes, but they’ll be sure to have fun at Le Havre on Friday. Will it be at the Black Stars’ expense?

PROBABLE XI (GHANA) (4-3-3): Jojo Wollacott – Denis Odoi, Daniel Amartey, Alexander Djiku, Gideon Mensah – Tariq Lamptey, Baba Iddrisu, Thomas Partey – Kudus Mohammed – Iñaki Williams, Jordan Ayew

PROBABLE XI (BRAZIL) (3-2-4-1): Alisson – Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Éder Militão – Alex Telles, Casemiro – Lucas Paquetá, Neymar, Vinicius Jr, Raphinha – Richarliso

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