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Ghana rocked by scandal

Team Assessment Jun 26, 2014
Read

Akwasi Appiah

Latest Team: Ghana

2014 FIFA World Cup

  • 3GP
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Profile

Previous Clubs/Countries: TGhana U23s

Honours: 2011 All-African Games

Kwesi Appiah is not who you think he is. For a start, his name is not even Kwesi.

Born James, he adopted the psuedonym when registering for a youth tournament and discovering there was someone else with his name. To guarantee his own participation in the competition, club officials gave him the name Kwesi and it stuck.

He is also not just Ghana's head coach. He is the third successive coach to take Ghana to the World Cup and the only African to scale that height. In an age in which the continent is finally learning to appreciate its own, Appiah's achievement is signficiant but, he well knows, not sufficient.

Ghana have been on a steady climb from their victory at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup and second-place finish at the 2010 African Nations' Cup (ANC) to their round of 16 showing in Germany in 2006 and quarterfinal appearance in South Africa in 2010. The next rung is obvious but it will take a man of strong will to see them into the final four. Very few, it seems, believe Appiah can be that man but he will be determined to prove them wrong.

Despite spending a decade defending for Ghana's most successful club, 22 times league champions Asante Kotoko, Appiah was rarely seen as a man to light up big stages. He played for Ghana between 1987 and 1992, a period which included representing them at an ANC in the final year of his international career, but he was dropped for the final.

He had more luck as a coach and was appointed Ghana assistant in 2008. Appiah was the assistant to three foreign coaches -- Claude Le Roy, Milovan Rajevac and Goran Stevanovic -- and was in attendance at two African Nation Cups and one World Cup, as well as presiding over the Ghana under-23 side who won gold at the 2011 All-Africa Games. Despite that experience many felt he was not ready for the main job, especially considering he was up against candidates like Marcel Desailly and Sven Goran Eriksson.

However, he was appointed in April 2012 and showed an immediate willingness to step up. He took advantage of the partnership Ghana has with Manchester City and had three week-long stints at the English club as part of "knowledge-sharing programnes." He also travelled to Liverpool in March this year, to tour their facilities and meet with the technical team. He has even reached out to his former boss Rajevac as he prepares Ghana for the World Cup.

In all of that, Appiah has managed to hold on to his own identity as well. He chose Asamoah Gyan to captain the side, an interesting choice ahead of Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari. Appiah regarded the appointment as a two-fold solution. He wanted to push Gyan to work harder and he also saw in Gyan a player the rest looked up to. To rubber-stamp the success of the combination, both Gyan and Appiah were in the running to win Ghana's 2013-14 Sports Personality of the Year; success in Brazil would be a bigger prize still.

Strengths: Quiet confidence has helped Appiah earn the respect of the most important people involved -- the players. He has unlocked the key to motivating them to perform for him, while Appiah's research into the opposition should guarantee Ghana are well prepared for the challenges they will face in a tough group.

Weaknesses: His lack of experience at international level and his soft-spoken nature have inevitably led to questions about his confidence and ability. Although Appiah prefers to disprove people through the actions of his team, he will have to be careful not to get overawed by expectation and try too many things as a result.

Career high: Becoming the first local coach to oversee Ghana's qualification for a World Cup with a convincing 6-1 win over fellow African heavyweights Egypt.

Career low: Losing 1-0 to then-defending continental champions Zambia in a World Cup qualifier in June 2012 and being booted out of the 2013 ANC at semifinal stage at the hands of minnows Burkina Faso.

Tactics: Appiah experimented with 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-1-2 formations but went back to the traditional 4-4-2 for most of the World Cup qualifiers. He has also made use of a 4-4-1-1 when Ghana are battling for possession, with Abdul Majeed Waris ahead of Asamoah Gyan. If the Black Stars find themselves on the back foot in Brazil, that may be their strategy.

Quotes: "I'm a coach who doesn't talk that much; the players call me a silent killer. The reason for that is that I have total respect for them but I always make sure that each and every player does what is right at the given time," Kwesi Appiah on his style of leadership.

Trivia: Appiah's wife and three kids live in London. They asked him to quit the Ghana job on one of his visits home because they thought it was taking up too much of his time.