World Cup - Country profile: Ghana

Michael Essien is back for Ghana, who are aiming to undo the hurt of four years previously at the World Cup.

Reuters
World Cup - Country profile: Ghana
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Ghana's soccer team players pose for photographers before their team's 2014 World Cup qualifying second leg playoff soccer match against Ghana at Air Defence "30 June" stadium in Cairo, November 19 (Reuters)

Form and Prospects

The anger and frustration of being denied a semi-final spot at the last World Cup will be central to Ghana's quest at the 2014 finals in Brazil.

Luis Suarez's handball on the line kept out Dominic Adiyiah's goal-bound shot that had it gone in, would have meant a victory for Ghana in their quarter-final tie against Uruguay in Johannesburg at the 2010 finals.

Asamoah Gyan then grazed the top of the crossbar as he missed the resultant penalty and Ghana went on to lose in the post-match shootout to miss out on becoming the first African side to reach the last four at a World Cup tournament.

The result initially hindered the side's progress but now it serves as motivating spur for the west Africans, notably in their successful quest to qualify again, and will be one of the factors that mean Ghana are regarded as the strongest of the five African qualifiers for Brazil.

An experienced line-up with plenty of midfield and attacking talent ensured an impressive road to the finals, including a 6-1 demolition of Egypt in the first leg of the playoff that gave stark notice of Ghana's potential.

Players like Kwadwo Asamoah of Juventus and AC Milan's Sulley Muntari have since been supplemented by the return from self-imposed exile of Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

The inexperience of coach Kwesi Appiah, a quiet figure behind the scene, and a poor defence could count against the Black Stars.

Coach: Kwesi Appiah

Appiah was promoted to head coach after serving as the assistant to several of his predecessors. The 53-year-old was handed a permanent appointment following the March 2012 sacking of Serbian Goran Stevanovic, but had also been caretaker for several games after the 2010 World Cup.

He was an international defender in his playing days with Asante Kotoko and then worked in the Ghana Football Association's coaching structures.

At under-23 level he coached Ghana to the gold medal at last All-Africa Games in Maputo in 2011.

Key player: Michael Essien

Essien missed out on the last World Cup because of injury and then asked not to be no longer selected for Ghana as he sought to concentrate on his club career.

But now very much a reserve at Chelsea, he has returned to the national team fold and showed no ill effects from two seasons with little club action as he provided the midfield momentum for Ghana to eliminate Egypt in the World Cup playoffs.

The 30-year-old, whose first serious knee injury in 2008 was suffered playing for Ghana, competed for his country at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He spent last season at Real Madrid on loan.

How they qualified

One of five direct African qualifiers.

World Cup record

Previous appearances: Two (2006, 2010).

Best performance: Quarter-finalists 2010.

Odds

200-1.

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