Two losses, one point, unpaid bonuses, and two players sent home the day before a decisive game.
It's a story that has all the makings of a World Cup disaster for Ghana, but Black Stars head coach Kwesi Appiah tried to put a positive spin on his country’s fortunes after a 2-1 loss to Portugal ended his team’s World Cup hopes.
“The best country in the whole world in football is out of the competition,” Appiah told reporters in his postgame remarks. “I personally believe that performance-wise, I am very happy with the performance of the young players that I brought to the competition.”
At times on Thursday afternoon, Ghana were just one goal away from breaking US hearts for a third straight World Cup, with their game tied 1-1 and the USMNT losing 1-0 to Germany. A 2-1 Ghana win would have sent them through with the US-Germany result staying the same.
However, Appiah insisted that his team was solely focused on winning its own match rather than worried about what was happening in Recife.
“Coming into this game our plan was to make sure to get a win, no matter what Germany and the US did, even if they drew,” he said. “It was unfortunate that we could not get a win. At this level, once you lose a little concentration, you will be killed for it, and that was our unfortunate situation.”
Ghana were the victims of two unfortunate lapses against Portugal, the first coming when John Boye acrobatically turned the ball into his own-goal while attempting a clearance, and the second coming late in the game when goalkeeper Fatau Dauda flapped at a ball in the air, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to virtually end Ghana’s World Cup.
“As I said, many of these players are young players that we are building for the future, so automatically there is no way you can say they will be the perfect team that you want to see,” Appiah said of his young squad. “I believe that after this tournament, I’ve learned a lot of things concerning their performance on the pitch. I believe they will also learn a lot of things and try to develop from the mistakes they did.”
Appiah brought the youngest team of any nation in this year’s World Cup, with an average age of 25.4, and according to the coach, that was part of the reason why his nation underwhelmed after taking the world by surprise in 2006 and 2010.
"In 2006 and 2010, we had the team that had been together for eight years,” he explained. “We started building this team two years ago.”
The team got even younger the day of the game, though, when it was revealed that star midfielders Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng had been suspended indefinitely from the team. According to the Ghana Football Association, Boateng was suspended for “vulgar verbal insults targeted at coach Kwesi Appiah during the team’s training session in Maceio this week.”
The GFA said the decision on Muntari “was taken in the wake of his unprovoked physical attack on an Executive Committee member of the GFA and a management member of the Black Stars, Mr. Moses Armah on Tuesday 24th June, 2014 during a meeting.”
The suspensions came after a highly-publicized dispute over the team’s bonuses, which ultimately resulted in Ghana’s president authorizing the transport of $3 million dollars in cash via plane to the players in Brazil.
Though the news broke the morning before the game, Appiah confirmed afterwards that the decisions were taking the day prior, and defended his choice to suspend the veteran players while admitting it was not an ideal situation for him as a coach.
“It’s got to do with discipline issues and if you want to build a team, discipline is always important so it doesn’t affect the team in the future,” he said.
"Every coach would want his players concentrating on games, not on money. It's not a lovely situation.”