New gen­er­a­tion of Ghana stars her­alds a bright new fu­ture

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL - RORY SMITH

IT was no sur­prise that Nike chose the face of Didier Drogba to adorn the gi­ant poster that dom­i­nated Joburg’s cen­tral busi­ness district in the build-up to the World Cup.

Af­ter all, the Chelsea striker is the totemic fig­ure in African foot­ball, prob­a­bly the con­ti­nent’s most fa­mous and best ac­tive player and a man who uses the pro­file and wealth his tal­ents have brought him to do his best to help his coun­try and con­ti­nent in any way he can.

When Drogba speaks, Ivory Coast, and much of Africa, lis­tens.

This was sup­posed to be his tour­na­ment, the stage on which, at 32, he ce­mented his legacy.

He may still do so, of course, for all the wor­ries over his bro­ken el­bow.

Ivory Coast, un­til the draw for the group stage was made, looked Africa’s great­est hope.

South Africa have the im­pe­tus of host­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, the pride and the de­sire, but they lack qual­ity.

Al­ge­ria are young, in­ex­pe­ri­enced, while Cameroon are over-re­liant on Sa­muel Eto’o.

But Ivory Coast’s golden gen­er­a­tion had the look of po­ten­tial quar­ter-fi­nal­ists at the very least.

And then their name was drawn along­side Brazil and (an ad­mit­tedly over-rated) Por­tu­gal, and Africa’s best chance of mak­ing a mark on the oc­ca­sion which means so much from the Cape to Cairo seemed to be shot.

Drogba’s in­jury sim­ply con­firmed that opin­ion. The con­ti­nent has had to look else­where for in­spi­ra­tion. In Ghana, they have found it. The Black Stars won their open­ing game against a well-drilled, highly re­garded Ser­bia side (some peo­ple, men­tion­ing no names, may even have tipped them to win the group) thanks to an Asamoah Gyan penalty.

It was a de­served win, a per­for­mance full of verve and brio and at­tack­ing in­tent, and one achieved with­out Ghana’s trio of Drog­bas – Michael Essien, Sul­ley Mun­tari and Stephen Ap­piah – at least un­til the lat­ter came on in the 73rd minute.

There, in El­lis Park, was proof of the rich seam of tal­ent which the coun­try has un­earthed in the search for suc­ces­sors to the gen­er­a­tion spear­headed by the Chelsea, In­ter Mi­lan and Bologna mid­field­ers.

Tal­ent drives across Ghana in re­cent years and a con­sis­tent em­pha­sis on youth devel­op­ment have brought play­ers like Isaac Vor­sah, of Ger­man side Hof­fen­heim, Rosen­borg’s An­thony An­nan and the Udi­nese mid­fielder Kwadwo Asamoah to promi­nence, sup­ple­ment­ing the re­sources avail­able to man­ager Milo­van Ra­je­vac.

Em­manuel Kwesi Afranie, a vastly ex­pe­ri­enced coach in­volved with the cor­po­rate-spon­sored tal­ent hunts, is cer­tain that the play­ers who have been dis­cov­ered have “the cal­i­bre… to be the fu­ture of the nation”.

“Given that Ra­je­vac’s bench held Do­minic Adiyiah – top scorer and best player in last year’s World Un­der-20 cham­pi­onship, which Ghana’s Black Satel­lites won – and the likes of Sa­muel Inkoom and Jonathan Men­sah, it is hard to ar­gue that the fu­ture is bright.”

Drogba, and his gen­er­a­tion of Ivo­rian gold, have found their heirs. – The Tele­graph

OUR TIME: Asamoah Gyan and An­thony An­nan cel­e­brate Ghana’s vic­tory over Ser­bia at Lof­tus Vers­feld last week­end.

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