Ghana

Ghana

  • Capital: Accra
  • Population: 31,073,000 (2020 estimate)
  • Official Languages: English
  • Recognised National Languages: Dagaare, Dagbanli, Dangme, Ewe, Frafra, Ga, Gonja, Nzema, Twi, Ghanaian Sign Language
  • Men’s Team Nicknames: Black Stars
  • Women’s Team Nicknames: Black Queens
  • Association: Ghana Football Association (GFA)
  • Top Male Domestic League: Ghana Premier League
  • Top Female Domestic League: Ghana Women’s Football League
  • FIFA Code: GHA

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Quarter Finals (2010)
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Group Stage (1999, 2003, 2007)
  • Best AFCON Result (Men): WINNERS (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982)
  • Best AFCON Result (Women): Runners-Up (1998, 2002, 2006)
  • Best CHAN Result (Men): Runners-Up (2009, 2014)
  • Best Olympics Result (Men): Bronze Medal (1992)
  • Best Olympics Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Best WAFU Nations Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (6 times)
  • Best WAFU Nations Cup Result (Women): WINNERS (2019)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 14th (February 2008, April-May 2008)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 42nd (June 2008)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 89th (June 2004)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 60th (December 2019)
  • Most Capped Player: Asamoah Gyan – 109 caps [as of October 2021]
  • Top Scorer: Asamoah Gyan – 51 goals [as of October 2021]

Introduction & Brief History

The Republic of Ghana is a country situated on the Atlantic Ocean coastline of West Africa. The country has a southern coastline on the Gulf of Guinea, with Côte d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast to the west of Ghana, Burkina Faso to the north, and Togo to the east. Originally part of the British Empire, the colonies of the Gold Coast, Ashanti, the Northern Territories, and British Togoland unified in 1957 to form the current Ghana state today, becoming the first sub-Saharan colony to achieve sovereignty. Initially an independent dominion within the British Commonwealth, they became the current republic in 1960 and are still a valuable member of the Commonwealth.

Football was brought to the country by the British colonists and merchants in the late 19th century with the first Ghanaian football club, Excelsior, being founded in 1903. The Gold Coast Football Association was founded in 1920 to represent the coastal colony of the country and is the oldest football association in Africa, with it becoming the Ghana Football Association (GFA) following the country’s unification and independence in 1957. Their first officially recognised international was as “Gold Coast and British Togoland” when they beat a Nigerian team 1-0 in Accra in 1950. The country joined FIFA as a full member in 1958, before becoming members of CAF two years later in 1960.

The Ghanaian national team has continuously been one of the stronger sides within African football and has claimed the African Cup of Nations crown on four occasions. They were the dominant force in African football during the 1960s, winning their first AFCON as hosts in 1963 by beating Sudan 3-0, before successfully defending their trophy two years later when they beat the 1965 hosts Tunisia 3-2 after extra time. The “Black Stars” (named after the black star which appears centrally on the Ghanaian flag) reached the next two consecutive finals but lost to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan in the 1968 and 1970 finals respectively. Their third AFCON title came in 1978, when they hosted the event for the second time, this time beating Uganda 2-0 in the final, before achieving their fourth African continental title four years later by beating hosts Libya on penalties after drawing 1-1. During that victorious tournament, they were inspired by one of their greatest players in Abedi “Pele” Ayew, who would be influential in the team’s run to the final ten years later. Sadly they were unable to repeat the feats of a decade previously, this time losing out on a penalty shootout to neighbours Côte d’Ivoire.

Since the turn of the millennium, Ghanaian football has certainly been at the forefront of African football after a rather lackluster and turbulent late 1980s and 1990s. From 2008 to 2017, they reached at least the semi-finals of all six AFCON tournaments that were organised, finishing fourth on three occasions, third once (curiously in the tournament they hosted in 2008), and reaching the final a further two times. Alas, they have been unable to add to their AFCON total, losing to Egypt by a single goal in the 2010 final, and to the Côte d’Ivoire on penalties once again in the 2015 final. Rather disappointingly, they were knocked out in the Round of 16 in the 2019 tournament, but have qualified for the upcoming tournament held in the winter of 2022.

Ghana has performed incredibly admirably on the global stage, with its youth teams achieving great success. The under-17 team have won the U17 World Cup in 1991 and 1995, as well as reaching the final in 1993 and 1997, whilst the under-20 side were U20 World Cup finalists in 1993 and 2001, before clinching the title in 2009 when they beat Brazil on penalties. A lot of that U20 World Cup-winning side would have a huge influence on the famous 2010 Ghana World Cup senior side who would light up that year’s tournament held in Africa. The senior side had finally made its long-overdue World Cup debut four years previously when they competed in the 2006 edition and performed admirably by reaching the knockout stage before being eliminated by Brazil. Their 2010 performance improved on their debut achievements when they reached the quarter-finals of the tournament, becoming the third African team to achieve the feat, and were within a penalty kick of becoming the first African semi-finalist after THAT Luis Suárez handball, before agonisingly but heroically losing on penalties to Uruguay.

Ghana qualified for their third consecutive World Cup by reaching the Brazilian-held tournament in 2014, but after being drawn in a difficult group alongside Germany, the United States (playing them for the third World in a row), and Portugal, they disappointingly finished bottom of the group but would get a point from the eventual World Cup winners. The Black Stars failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup when they finished in the third position in their qualifying group, winning only one game and being situated behind Egypt and Uganda in their group. They are still currently in the hunt for qualifying for their fourth World Cup, and are the highest-ranked side in their 2022 World Cup qualifying group, but are currently struggling to progress to the third and final round of the African qualification format.

Ghana Representative Team

Q. Who is Ghana’s best player of all-time?

Abedi Pele

Ghana’s greatest player is also considered as one of Africa’s greatest ever footballers, the attacking midfielder and forward Abedi “Pele” Ayew. He is a legendary player in French football having played and scored goals for Niort, Mulhouse, Lille, Lyon, and most famously Marseille, where he was a key figure in Marseille’s golden period in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As part of the “Magical Trio” alongside the lethal striker Jean-Pierre Papin and the mercurial winger Chris Waddle, he managed to win two Ligue 1 titles and reach the final of the 1991 European Cup, which they lost on penalties to Red Star Belgrade. However, he was the only one of the trio to still be at l’OM when they reached their second European Cup final in three years, and famously became the first (and to date only) French side to lift the European Cup by beating AC Milan 1-0 in München. Abedi Pele’s influence on that European Cup final and team that evening was apparent as he was named as the Man of the Match for the game. For his performances with the Occitan club, he won numerous awards, by being the first African player to earn a placing in the 1992 FIFA World Player of the Year award, winning French Football‘s African Player of the Year award on three occasions, the inaugural BBC African Sports Star of the Year award in 1992, as well as the corresponding CAF award in 1991, 1992, and 1993.

Abedi Pele’s performances with the national team are also iconic, having made 73 appearances for the Black Stars and scoring 19 goals between 1982 and 1998. He was a member of the victorious team in the 1982 African Cup of Nations, and was hugely influential and inspirational when leading the team to the 1992 AFCON final, with his solo run goal against Congo in the quarter-finals of the competition being compared to that of Diego Maradona’s second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. As a result, he was given the nickname of “The African Maradona” – to be nicknamed after both Pelé and Maradona is surely a testament to his skill and ability as a player! Unsurprisingly, he was given the Golden Ball award for being the best player in that AFCON tournament, and currently holds the record for the most appearances at AFCON tournaments.

Despite his post-retirement career being somewhat controversial, with accusations of bribery involving his owned team, Nania FC, there is no doubt Abedi “Pele” Ayew is the greatest player in Ghanaian football, and one of the best players to ever come from Africa! In addition, he has also contributed to the next generation of Ghanaian players and created a footballing dynasty with his sons Ibrahim, André, and Jordan all playing for the Ghanaian national team.

Q. Who is currently the best player in the national team?

Thomas Partey

The best player in the current Ghanaian national squad is probably the 28-year-old midfielder Thomas Partey, who currently plays for Arsenal. Partey started his career at Atlético Madrid’s B team in 2013, but after impressive loan spells with Real Mallorca in the Segunda División and then Almería in La Liga, it ensured promotion to the full team for the start of the 2015-16 season. In his six seasons with Atléti, he was an important member of their midfield as the side finished in the top three in the league each season he played there, reached the 2016 Champions League final, and won the 2017-18 UEFA Europa League and 2018 Super Cup. After much speculation, Partey moved to English football by joining Arsenal in October 2020 for £45m, becoming Ghana’s most expensive player. Alas, his tenure at Arsenal has not gone as well as his time in the Spanish capital with the Gunners struggling in comparison to previous seasons. Nonetheless, Partey is a firm fixture in Arsenal’s midfield and scored his first goal for the club in October 2021, against Aston Villa in the English Premier League.

In terms of the national team, Partey made his international debut in June 2016 against Mauritius, and since then has made 33 appearances for the Black Stars and scored 12 goals (at time of writing). He scored a hat-trick against Congo in a 5-1 victory in the 2018 World Cup qualifying and recently scored both home and away in the duo of 2022 World Cup qualifying fixtures against Zimbabwe in October 2021. Partey has played in two AFCONs with Ghana, being a member of the squads for the 2017 and 2019 editions and helping them reach the semi-finals in the former tournament. As a result of his performances with the national side, he was named in the CAF Team of the Year in 2018, and was named as Ghana Player of the Year for 2018 and 2019. It is expected for Thomas Partey to play in his third AFCON tournament this winter as he is a certain starter with the national team, and is currently the vice-captain of the team.

Q. Who could be considered as the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

Mohammed Kudus

One Ghanaian player worth keeping an eye on is the 20-year-old attacking midfielder Mohammed Kudus, who is currently playing for Dutch giants Ajax. A graduate of the famous Ghana-based ‘Right to Dream’ football academy, he made his professional debut with Danish side FC Nordsjælland as an 18-year-old. In his two years with the Tigrene, he scored 14 goals in 51 appearances before making the move to the Eredivisie for €9 million in the summer of 2020. Ajax’s head coach Erik ten Hag described Kudus as a player with “incredible potential“, and he was part of the squad who achieved the Dutch domestic double for the Amsterdam club in his first season. Since making his international debut in 2019, he has played 8 times for the Black Stars, scoring 3 goals, with his first goal coming against South Africa in November 2019, and most recently scoring against Zimbabwe in the 2022 World Cup qualifier in October. Further evidence for his potential was that he was named in the IFFHS CAF Youth Team of the Year for the year 2020.

Kamaldeen Sulemana

Another Ghanaian player with great potential is the 19-year-old winger Kamaldeen Sulemana, who moved this summer to Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais. Like Kudus previously, Kamaldeen is another product of the ‘Right to Dream’ academy who ended up moving to Nordsjælland in January 2020. Noted for his technical ability, as well as his dribbling and speed, he tore up the Danish Superliga by scoring 14 goals in 42 appearances, including 5 goals in 5 games in April 2021 which earned him the league’s Player of the Month award. After being linked with a number of Europe’s top clubs, he moved to Rennes (renowned for its excellent development of youth players) for a reported €20 million, making him the Superliga’s most expensive departure. This season with Les Rouge et Noir, he has scored 4 goals in his 10 appearances with his new club, as well as scoring on his debut after just 14 minutes. The speedy winger has just recently broken into the full senior Ghanaian side, making his debut as an 18-year-old in October 2020 against Mali, and has earned himself 4 caps for the Black Stars.

Q. What is the current state/performance of the Ghanaian national team?

The international results for the Ghanaian national team in 2021 are as follows:

  • 25th March [2021 AFCON Q]: South Africa (a) 1-1
  • 28th March [2021 AFCON Q]: São Tomé and Príncipe (h) 3-1
  • 8th June [Friendly]: Morocco (a) 0-1
  • 12th June [Friendly]: Côte d’Ivoire (h) 0-0
  • 3rd September [2022 WC Q]: Ethiopia (h) 1-0
  • 6th September [2022 WC Q]: South Africa (a) 0-1
  • 9th October [2022 WC Q]: Zimbabwe (h) 3-1
  • 12th October [2022 WC Q]: Zimbabwe (a) 1-0
Milovan Rajevac

For a team that is currently the seventh-highest African team in the recent FIFA World Rankings, they are somewhat struggling a little bit especially when it comes to their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign. Despite being the highest seed in their four-team group, they are currently second in their group. The 1-0 away defeat to South Africa has given the advantage to the undefeated South Africans who currently lead the table, with Ghana a point behind in the second position, with only the group winner progressing to the third round of qualifying. If Ghana is to progress to the third-round playoffs, their final fixture at home to South Africa in mid-November will become crucial, that’s if they manage to defeat Ethiopia away, which won’t be an easy fixture either. Can the newly appointed Serbian coach, and architect of the memorable 2010 World Cup campaign, Milovan Rajevac (making his second spell in charge of the Black Stars after being their manager from 2008 to 2010) turn around Ghana’s teetering qualification campaign? The next two games will certainly answer that question…

Q. Looking at Ghana’s international history, what has been the best game, result, or performance for the representative team?

Asamoah Gyan

Undoubtedly, Ghana’s most memorable performance was in the 2010 World Cup. Rather fittingly in the first World Cup to be held on the African continent, they were the ‘surprise package’ of the tournament. Drawn in a tough group with Germany, Serbia, and Australia, they started their tournament with a victory over Serbia with star striker Asamoah Gyan scoring a late winning penalty – Gyan and penalties would be an ongoing combination throughout this campaign. It would be prevalent in Ghana’s second group against Australia as they achieved a 1-1 draw with the Socceroos before Ghana finished their group stage with a single goal defeat to Germany. Despite ending the group stage with four points, Australia’s defeat of Serbia ensured the Black Stars progressed to the knockout stage as runners-up, progressing on goal difference.

Richard Kingson

In the Last 16, they faced a United States side that had surprisingly topped their group and were favourites to win the tie. It would be the second consecutive World Cup both sides had faced each other after Ghana’s 2-1 group game victory in 2006. As with the previous encounter four years ago, the Ghanaians struck first with an early strike from Kevin Prince Boateng, scoring his first goal for Ghana, before a second-half penalty from Landon Donovan levelled the scores. Despite everything the US threw at the Ghanaian goal, Richard Kingson produced an incredible performance to keep the American efforts at bay and send the game into extra time. Once again Gyan would become the match-winner by latching onto a high long ball, chesting it down, and holding off two defenders before scoring the decider in the third minute of injury time to send Ghana into the quarter-finals, and becoming only the third African nation to achieve the feat.

Sulley Muntari

The quarter-final match against Uruguay has become iconic and infamous in World Cup history. In a close encounter between the two teams, Sulley Muntari opened the scoring in first-half injury time with a long-range effort before the eventual Player of the Tournament and joint top goalscorer Diego Forlán equalised ten minutes into the second half with an excellent curling free-kick. With neither side able to make the breakthrough, the game proceeded into extra time, although it wouldn’t be until the final minutes of extra time that the tournament’s most talked-about moment occurred. A Ghanaian free-kick was initially blocked on the line by forward Luis Suárez and rebounded away before a Dominic Adiyiah follow-up header looked to be heading into an empty net. Either instinctively or cunningly, Suárez blocked the shot with his hand and stopped a definite winner. Naturally, he was sent off and a penalty was given to Ghana, with a converted shot certain to put Ghana into the semi-finals and become the first African nation to reach the final four – incredibly fitting for a tournament held in South Africa. After some delay, Gyan was unable to replicate his penalty performances of earlier games and sent his effort ricocheting over the crossbar, much to the celebration of Suárez who was watching from the tunnel. With the missed penalty being the final action of extra time, the game naturally progressed to a penalty shootout. Both sides successfully converted their opening two penalties (including Gyan who had rectified his agonising miss just minutes earlier), however, Ghana had their next two penalties saved by Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, allowing journeyman striker Sebastián Abreu to panenka the winner for La Celeste.

Everyone remembers the game for Suárez’s handball, in one of many instances of a very controversial career for the talented forward. Many people accuse him of blatant cheating whilst others (especially within Uruguay) consider him a hero and in keeping with the Uruguayan philosophy of garra. Regardless, Ghana came within a whisker of being the first African team to reach the final four of a World Cup, much to the disappointment and heartbreak of an entire continent.

Q. What is your favourite shirt from the Ghanaian national team?

The current home shirt (left) and the away shirt used in 2014 (right).

I really like the current home shirt that is being used by the Ghanaian team, with its unique grey pattern on the body and black pattern on the sleeves. Very nice! The away shirt worn in 2014 is also a cracker with the star pattern on the shirt.

Ghanaian Domestic Football

Q. What is the Ghanaian football pyramid like?

At the time of writing, the Ghanaian football pyramid has four levels:

  • Tier 1 – Ghana Premier League
  • Tier 2 – Ghana Division One League
  • Tier 3 – Ghana Division Two League
  • Tier 4 – Ghana Division Three League

The top-flight league is the Ghana Premier League which was officially formed in 1956. Currently, it has 18 teams competing in the league, who play each other team home and away to play 34 league games in the season. The winner of the Ghana Premier League automatically qualifies for the following season’s CAF Champions League, coming in at the first qualifying round of the competition. The bottom three teams at the end of the league season are relegated to the Ghana Division One, and replaced by the winners of the three 16-team zonal leagues.

The national knockout competition is the Ghanaian FA Cup, which first took place in the 1957-58 season. The winner of which can subsequently qualify for the following season’s CAF Confederation Cup – Africa’s secondary club competition.

Q. Which Ghanaian teams are historically the most successful?

Below are the number of titles each Ghanaian club has won since the first season in 1956:

  • 24 titles: Asante Kotoko
  • 21 titles: Hearts of Oak
  • 4 titles: Ashanti Gold/Obuasi Goldfields
  • 2 titles: Great Olympics, Aduana Stars
  • 1 title: Eleven Wise, Real Republicans, Mysterious Dwarfs, Sekondi Hasaacas, Berekum Chelsea, Legon Cities/Wa All Stars FC
The two best teams in Ghana historically.

Since the first season held in 1956, the league has been dominated by two sides – the Kumasi-based Asante Kotoko, and the Accra-based Hearts of Oak (who won the first two seasons of the Ghana Premier Leagues), with the former winning 24 titles and the latter achieving 21 championships. However, since the 2013-14 season, both teams have only won the title once with Asante last winning it in 2013-14 (although they did win a GFA Normalization Committee Special Competition in 2019 to determine Ghana’s representation in the CAF Champions League) and Hearts of Oak being the most recent winner in the 2020-21 season. The only other team to have won more than two titles is Ashanti Gold who won three league championships in a row (as Obuasi Goldfields) between 1993 and 1996, and added a fourth (under their current moniker) in 2015.

The number of Ghanaian FA Cup wins for each club since it was first organised in 1958:

  • 11 cups: Hearts of Oak
  • 9 cups: Asante Kotoko
  • 4 cups: Real Republicans
  • 3 cups: Great Olympics
  • 2 cups: Medeama SC
  • 1 cup: Ashanti Gold, Mysterious Dwarfs, Cornerstones, Ghapoha, Sekondi Hasaacas, Eleven Wise, Bechem United, New Edubiase United, Nania, Voradep, Dumas Boys of GTP

As with the history of the league, both Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko have been the most successful teams in terms of the GFA Cup, with Phobia leading the way with 11 cups, and the Porcupine Warriors two cups behind with 9 trophies its history (although they won the first cup final in 1958 by beating their Accra rivals 4-2). The third-best team in the GFA Cup’s history is Real Republicans, another Accra-based club that won four cups in a row between 1962 and 1965. It was founded by President Kwame Nkrumah as a way to unite the country and be a model club for the rest of the league, as well as providing players for the national team. Sadly, the team was disbanded after President Nkrumah was overthrown in a coup d’etat in 1966.

Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak have also been successful in the CAF Champions League (CCL), with both clubs having won the competition. Asante Kotoko has won Africa’s biggest club competition twice, beating DR Congo side TP Englebert 3-2 on aggregate in 1970, and beating Egyptian side Al Ahly 1-0 on aggregate in 1983, as well as reaching the final a further five times. Their last appearance was the 1993 final, where they lost to Egyptian side Zamalek on penalties after two goalless games. Hearts of Oak had appeared in two CCL finals in the 1970s, but lost in both the 1977 and 1979 editions. Thankfully, they became Ghana’s second African champion and the first African champion of the new millennium by winning the 2000 final after beating the Tunisian side ES Tunis 5-2 on aggregate. Ashanti Gold are the third Ghanaian side to have reached the final of the CCL, when they reached their only final in 1997. Unfortunately, they were unable to overcome Moroccan side Raja Casablanca on penalties after drawing 1-1 on aggregate.

Q. Who are currently the best teams in the country?

The 2020-21 Ghana Premier League table.
[IMAGE: Flashscore.com]

As mentioned above, Hearts of Oak are champions of Ghana once again, for the 21st time in their history, having won the 2020-21 Ghana Premier League. However, the league was surprisingly very close with only 21 points separating the champions from the relegated Liberty Professionals in 17th position, and only 8 points between the 7th placed team Dreams FC and the relegation spots. Asante Kotoko finished as runners-up, four points behind their historical rivals, with the Feyenoord-founded West African Football Academy (WAFA) finishing a point behind Asante in the third position.

Hearts of Oak also achieved the domestic double by winning their eleventh cup by beating Ashanti Gold 8-7 on penalties after a goalless draw – the first GFA Cup final played in four years due to problems with the GFA and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Useful Links

The links for the Ghana Football Association official social media channels can be found below:

In addition, there are a number of other African football websites or social media accounts that report on Ghanaian football. They can be found below:

So that completes the look at the Ghanaian national team and its domestic league. If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com, or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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