Team Profile: Ghana

Nickname: The Black Stars
Association formed: 1957
Previous Afcon Appearances: 20 (1963, 1965, 1968, 1970, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015)
Best result: Champions (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982)
Coach: Avram Grant
Leading scorers: all-time – Asamoah Gyan (48)
Most appearances: all-time – Asamoah Gyan (97)
FIFA ranking: 53 (9th in CAF)

THE BIG QUESTION
Can Ghana really end their 35-year trophy drought this year in Gabon?Can they rely on Asamoah Gyan? Sometimes it feels as if Ghana are far too reliant upon their captain Asamoah Gyan whom age is catching up on him, and has performed below par for some time now because he has been a slight doubt with injury. So, is captain Asamoah Gyan fully fit to guide the Black Stars to continental title?

WHO ARE THEY?
The Ghana national football team represents Ghana in international association football and has done so since the 1950s. Prior to 1957, the team played as the Gold Coast. Ghana qualified for their first world cup in 2006 and prior to that they maintained an unbeaten run in 2005 which won them the FIFA Best Mover of the Year Award and reached the second round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. They are among the three African teams to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

TOP THREE PLAYERS
Andre Ayew: ‘Dede’ has endured a testing few months since moving to West Ham, having been injured on his debut and then struggling to reach his top performance in recent weeks. The forward was missed by the Black Stars during his absence – Ghana have won just one of their last seven matches when the former Marseille man hasn’t been in action – and has the potential to be the player of the tournament.

Abdul Rahman Baba: As the only player to have started Ghana’s last 10 matches, it’s clear that Baba holds a key role in Grant’s plans, despite the case made by rival left-back Jeffrey Schlupp last season. However, like Dede, Baba’s also in the midst of something of a testing campaign at club level, where he’s been in and out of the Schalke side. He was so impressive at the last Nations Cup, but can he rediscover his top form in Gabon?

Christian Atsu: Atsu was outstanding at the last Nations Cup, putting aside some difficult circumstances at club level to demonstrate that he is one of the genuinely exceptional African talents of his generation. Day-to-day, the Chelsea loanee looks to be enjoying life much more these days, albeit in English football’s second tier, and he needs to be the difference for a workmanlike Ghana side that can lack ingenuity.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Ghana topped Group H fairly comfortably, securing their spot in Gabon with several games to go after winning four of their six matches. Avram Grant’s charges were eye-catching in their 7-1 demolition of Mauritius, only months after they were defeated in the Nations Cup Final by the Cote d’Ivoire, but the side struggled to reach top gear after that. They were worryingly contained by Rwanda until Wakaso Mubarak’s 87th-minute winner in Kigali in September 2015, and had no answers against a resolute Mozambique defence away from home. Most concerning, perhaps, is the 1-1 draw with Rwanda in Accra three months ago, with Ghana looking devoid of ideas and inspiration on the day.

FULL 23-MAN SQUAD AFCON

GOALKEEPERS: Razak Braimah (Cordoba, Spain), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars) and Fatau Dauda (Enyimba, Nigeria)

DEFENDERS: Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew, USA), Andy Yiadom (Barnsley, England), Baba Rahman (Schalke 04, Germany), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht, Belgium), (John Boye (Sivasspor, Turkey), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew, USA), Daniel Amartey (Leicester City, England), Edwin Gyimah (Orlando Pirates, South Africa)

MIDFIELDERS: Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese, Italy), Afriyie Acquah (Torino, Italy), Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid, Spain) Mubarak Wakaso (Panathinaikos, Greece), Christian Atsu (Newcastle, England), Ebenezer Ofori (AIK Stockholm, Sweden), Samuel Tetteh (Leifering, Austria)

FORWARDS: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ahli, UAE) Jordan Ayew (Aston Villa, England), Andre Ayew (West Ham, England), Ebenezer Assifuah (Sion, Switzerland), Bernard Tekpetey (Schalke 04, Germany)

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