Kwesi Appiah eyeing the future ahead of Egypt clash
Ghana are already out of the running for the World Cup, but Kwesi Appiah still believes there's a lot at stake in their final qualifier
Kwesi Appiah has a tough task on his hands this weekend as Ghana host Egypt in their final World Cup qualifier. Not only does the Black Stars coach have to navigate a way past the Pharaohs, but he also has to convince a nation that the fixture matters...and that he's the right man to lead the national side moving forward.
Sunday's fixture at the Cape Coast Stadium will bring an end to a campaign that Ghana will want to forget as soon as possible, and Appiah also hopes that it marks the beginning of a new cycle, one that culminates in Nations Cup success in 2019.
"I have heard people say there is nothing at stake but that is not true," Appiah told KweséESPN. "Every game from now is a step towards 2019 and I have made that point clear to all the players."
Despite the Black Stars' miserable campaign, Appiah can point out improvements in the last few months.
In the last three matches, all away from home, Ghana beat Congo-Brazzaville, and drew with Uganda and Saudi Arabia.
Appiah's impact may have come too late to save the Black Stars' World Cup campaign, but the sense remains that he's steering the team back onto the right path.
"The call ups suggest to me this team is a rebuilding phase," former international Sam Johnson told KweséESPN. "For every squad, he calls up two or three different players.
"It unsettles everyone in the squad in a positive way. The manner he has kept out some old players and how some of the new ones have taken their chances is positive for the team."
For the match against Egypt, Appiah has called up new boys Nasiru Mohammed of BK Hacken and Belgium-based midfielder Nana Ampomah.
There is a return to the side for Mubarak Wakaso and Bologna midfielder Godfred Donsah for what could be his first senior cap, but Appiah has left out regular centre-backs Jonathan Mensah and John Boye.
"I said from day one that I want to build a team towards 2019 and that has been reflected in the call-ups," Appiah explains. "I have made the point of inviting new players because it is best to observe them in a certain environment.
"There are some players I know well and others I need to see. As time goes on, there will be a more settled group to work but the door will not close entirely."
Atletico Madrid's Thomas Partey is suspended for the Egypt game but it looks increasingly likely that Appiah's future teams will centre heavily around him.
He has been a regular feature in the coach's plans alongside Daniel Amartey of Leicester City, who the Ghana boss describes as a real leader on the field.
However, some of Appiah's calls have stirred immense controversy, and suggest he is effectively phasing out some players.
He has not called up the Ayew brothers Andre and Jordan for the last two Ghana games and continues to ignore Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Jeffery Schlupp despite their good form at club level.
He insists the door is not shut on any players, but Johnson has argued that the debate around the high-profile omissions are unhealthy for team building.
"I heard people complain a lot about how players were becoming too comfortable, how they didn't contribute much to the national team," he continued, "and yet when Appiah drops them, there is an uproar. I don't understand."
Appiah knows there is only one way of dealing with the disaffection that has come with his squads.
"There may be nothing at stake against Egypt but we have to win," he concluded. "We have to prove to this country that we still deeply care about the national team."