New Ghanaian recruits undergo Brazil test ahead of World Cup

New Ghanaian recruits undergo Brazil test ahead of World Cup

While Brazil will fly to Qatar in November dreaming of winning a sixth World Cup, Ghana is hoping the addition of diaspora reinforcements can reestablish the Black Stars as one of Africa’s top teams.

Undefeated during World Cup qualifying, Brazil’s only competitive loss since being eliminated by Belgium in the 2018 quarterfinals in Russia came against Argentina in last year’s Copa América final.

Ghana’s recent record is much less impressive ahead of Friday’s match in Le Havre, one of the last two warm-up matches for both nations before the world final.

A shock loss to the Comoros in January sent Ghana to their first exit from the Africa Cup of Nations in 16 years.

But after the humiliation of the group stage debacle in Cameroon, Ghana bounced back by defeating fierce West African rivals Nigeria to reach their fourth World Cup in five attempts.

They outscored Nigeria on away goals and with bitter memories of an AFCON failure still fresh, the Ghana management team made it urgent to cast the net for new players far and wide.

Coach Otto Addo drew on his German roots to attract Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer and Stephan Ambrosius, both internationals with Germany at under-21 level, while Chris Hughton was instrumental in convincing Tariq Lamptey to switch allegiances from England.

The most intriguing newcomer in the Ghana camp, however, is Iñaki Williams, who earned a cap for Spain, his country of birth, in a 2016 friendly.

Williams has made a record 239 consecutive appearances in La Liga for Athletic Bilbao. His younger brother Nico was first called up by Spain last week.

The 28-year-old qualifies through his parents, who left Ghana and crossed the Sahara desert barefoot before finally resettling in Bilbao shortly before Williams was born.

“Despite being born in Europe, I have African roots and Ghanaian blood,” Williams told BBC Sport Africa last month.

“I think this is the best time to make that decision. I don’t think I will regret it because these trains (opportunities) only come once.

“I was not going to get this opportunity again and I think I made the right decisions. I will enjoy the moment, my roots and I will pay for the opportunity that Ghana has given me.”

– ‘Decision for life’ –

Southampton defender Mohammed Salisu has also made himself available after turning down previous calls.

There is concern that the influx of new players could disturb the harmony of the team that qualified for the World Cup.

Addo, himself born in Germany to Ghanaian parents, wishes to emphasize to his dual nationals that choosing to represent the four-time African champions is “a lifelong decision.”

“It’s not just about the World Cup, but more World Cups to come,” Addo, who played for Ghana in the 2006 World Cup, told the BBC World Football podcast.

“It’s about the African Cup of Nations. It’s about winning, being successful. So it’s not just about this 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 race before naming his final roster for Qatar.

The final will surely represent one last chance for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to lift a World Cup, but the same could apply to Neymar, still relatively young at 30.

The Brazilian said last year that he might never participate in a World Cup again, such is the strain on his body and mind.

But Neymar appears to be back at the peak of his powers after a brilliant start to the season with Paris Saint-Germain.

He is three short of Pele’s national record of 77 goals for Brazil, and coach Tite believes a new generation of players is ready to share the load.

However, there was no place for Gabriel Jesus in his latest squad even though the striker has impressed since moving from Manchester City to Arsenal in July.


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