Group D: Ghana

Ghana suffered a crippling blow with the injury to Michael Essien, one of the best players in the world. With him on the squad, they were seen as a contender to make the final four thanks to their world-class midfield. Now, playing without the Chelsea star and Mr. Eko look-a-like, they’ll rely on their bevy of young talent to step up at the world’s biggest stage.

Note to every good African player: STOP GETTING HURT. This is supposed to be Africa’s coming out party on the world soccer stage, and six months ago, it looked like they had three or four teams that could make it deep into the tournament. Then Drogba got hurt and Ivory Coast was fucked, Essien got hurt and Ghana isn’t “Ghana” win dick, Mikel got hurt and Nigeria was shit outta luck. (Sidenote, I blame Chelsea). I just hope Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o is locked in a fucking padded panic room somewhere in South Africa right now.

Nickname: The Black Stars (Named after their national affinity for Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s creative musical stylings)

Best Player: Without Essien, the honor probably goes to captain Stephen Appiah, MF, Bologna

Outlook: With Appiah’s leadership and defensive prowess, they have a solid holding player to rely on for possession. He’s joined by temperamental Inter midfielder Sully Muntari, worked as a co-playmaker alongside Essien, similar to Xavi and Iniesta for Spain. Sans Essien, it will be much easier for opposing defenses to lock him down. The team has plenty of young talent on offense though, nearly all of whom are fast, good with the ball at their feet, and strong in the air. The pedigree is there as well, as this team won the 2008 African Cup of Nations, the 2009 U-20 World Cup, dominated their qualifying group and still features many of the players who upset the U.S. and Czech Republic at the ’06 Cup. Asamoah Gyan (Rennes) and Matthew Amoah (NAC Breda) will likely be the starting strikers. Don’t sleep on 20-year old striker Dominic Adiyiah, who recently signed with AC Milan and was named MVP of the U-20 World Cup.
Their back four, coupled with Appiah, are going to be a tough nut to crack in Group D.  John Mensah (Sunderland) is a tenacious lockdown defender who will give opposing striker’s fits. John Paintsil (Fulham) is a speedy fullback who anchors the defense and can get forward to score goals. The back line is rounded out by PSV Eindhoven CB Eric Addo and Bayer Leverkuesen fullback Hans Sarpei. Goalie Richard Kingson (Wigan), a naturalized Turkish citizen, isn’t well known and won’t be feared by opponents, but he’s solid and was named best keeper at the 2008 African Cup of Nations.

Most Famous Citizen: Why it’s U.S. phenom Freddy Adu! At 14, Adu had signed a lucrative deal with Nike and was playing in the MLS. He was like the Justin Bieber of soccer. Seven years later, he’s career consists of playing Would You Rather with fellow bench-warmers at Aris Thessaloniki (on loan from Benfica). Just 21-years old, it’s not too late for him to turn things around, ala Landon Donovan, who sucked royally in Europe before redefining his game back in the MLS in his early 20s. However it doesn’t look good for the once-savior of American soccer, thanks to his lack of defensive ability and diminutive stature. In case you’re wondering what life is gonna be like for Bieber once that twink hits puberty and his voice changes, just take a long look at Freddy Adu.

Prediction: If they can get goals from their young stars-to-be, Ghana could be the last African team standing, perhaps in the semifinals. However, playing in a deep group without Essien, an early exit seems like the unfortunate conclusion for the Black Stars.

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