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World Cup preview: At 28, can Basque-born Inaki Williams be Ghana’s talisman?

World Cup preview: At 28, can Basque-born Inaki Williams be Ghana’s talisman?
November 17
05:25 2022

In the final game of the World Cup qualifiers, the Black Stars of Ghana only needed to stay disciplined to secure their slot — and that was what they did when they faced a listless Super Eagles of Nigeria on March 29, 2022.

They didn’t exactly have to rely on all the firepower in their arsenal to win the game. They just had to stay focused with their eyes on the prize.

But what exactly are their strengths?

The Black Stars are tough in defence, adept at marking in midfield and lethal on the counter-attack. Their penetrating style makes them dangerous against any side, particularly on the flanks.

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Coach Otto Addo likes to set up his teams based on the opposition’s strengths. It is likely that at the World Cup, he will start the opening game against Portugal using a 4-4-2 formation, with Joseph Wollacott in goal, and Tariq Lamptey, Denis Odoi, Mohammed Salisu and Daniel Amartey as the back four.

The midfield might comprise Thomas Partey, Daniel-Kofi Kyereh and Kamaldeen Sulemana with the big-name strikers, Inaki Williams, Jordan Ayew and Andre Ayew, playing up front.

In the recent game against Nicaragua, this was the line-up mostly relied on, although Addo has a tendency to slightly switch things up, playing Williams, Mohammed Kudus, Issahaku Fatawu and Osman Bukari in attack with Kudus tending to drop deeper to dictate the play.

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Who’ll be the revelation? 

That’s a hard one to answer. One of the characteristics that define Ghana – both a strength and a weakness – is that everyone knows the way they play and that has not changed in nearly seven months.

Coach Addo is not fond of surprises; he prefers tried and tested formations. Taking that into account, one surprise could be Mohammed Kudus, who plays for Ajax Amsterdam in the Netherlands. As either a deep-lying playmaker or a winger, he can bring a lot of quality to the team.

Will Inaki take up the anchor role?

Ghana are drawn in Group H alongside heavyweights Portugal and Uruguay, with South Korea completing the group.

Much will depend on how the Basque-born Inaki Williams plays. If he performs well and the team rallies behind him, the Black Stars are capable of taking on anyone.

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Williams — whose 20-year-old brother was included in Spain’s World Cup team — enjoys a La Liga record of over 240 consecutive league games.

“I told my grandfather, who told me it would be a dream for him to see me in the national team jersey. He is 90. He said he doesn’t have long to live, but that he would like to see me play in a World Cup with the national team. When he told me those words, I didn’t have to think any more,” Williams said while speaking to BBC on his decision to play for Ghana.

Although he had only played twice for the Black Stars before the World Cup call, his goal-scoring experience for Athletic Bilbao will be heavily relied on.

Depending on Williams’ form and the cohesiveness of the team, Ghana could possibly make the second round of the tournament.

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Can Ayew roll back the years?

The Black Stars captain, Andre Ayew, is facing an enormous challenge: at 32 years of age, his best days appear to be behind him, although he is still a key member and leader of the squad.

The odds are against him but he has the challenge of proving that he’s still got it.

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