Africa Cup Of Nations 2012 Team Previews: Ghana

Ghana will enter the Africa Cup of Nations as either co-favorites or second favorites to Cote D'Ivoire, depending on who you ask. The core of a team that finished runners-up at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations and quarterfinalists at the 2010 World Cup is completely intact. Goalkeeper Richard Kingson is gone, along with midfielder Stephen Appiah. Michael Essien could return to the team in the future, but he wasn't fit enough for selection this time around.

The good news is that those positions have heirs. As far as athletic defensive and two-way midfielders go, Ghana has more quality players than they can fit on their team. 24-year-old Adam Larsen Kwarasey has taken over the starting goalkeeper position, and he's off to a great start in his young career. The Black Stars have youth and experience all over the pitch and their roster has no glaring holes.

Options are plentiful everywhere for Goran Stevanovic, which makes Ghana a bit of a hard team to preview. It's unlikely that they'll stick with the same starting XI throughout the tournament; expect changes based on form and opposition. Players like Jordan Ayew, Prince Tagoe, Kwadwo Asamoah, Samuel Inkoom and Daniel Opare who can fill multiple roles allow Stevanovic to shift his lineup to do whatever he wants. The Ivory Coast has better top-end talent, but even they don't have this luxury quite to the extent that Ghana does.

Isaac Vorsah will be suspended for the first two games, meaning that Jonathan Mensah and John Mensah are the likely central defense pairing. If you haven't watched Ghana, don't worry. The former one wears "Jonathan" on his shirt to avoid confusion. Opare and John Pantsil are the likely starting fullbacks, but it wouldn't be shocking to see some of Lee Addy, or Inkoom at fullback when the Black Stars are in all-out attack mode.

The midfield could very well be a revolving door. One of Anthony Annan or Derek Boateng should play every game, with the latter having the upper hand. Kwadwo Asamoah and Sulley Muntari are likely the other two starters in the center, though Badu could make an appearance, and Stevanovic is not opposed to playing both of Annan and Boateng if he needs to kill off a game.

Up top, there are plenty of questions. If Ghana's matches over the last two years are any indication, there will be some rotation. Inkoom is a natural fullback, but has been very effective in his starts in an advanced right wing spot and could play that position to start the tournament. This could mean starts for Jordan Ayew and Andre Ayew in the other two forward positions, which would mean Prince Tagoe and Asamoah Gyan see the bench. Stevanovic will have a hard time benching a healthy Gyan, however, which means that everyone else's place would come under threat. There will likely be a five-man rotation up top, and it wouldn't be shocking to see three different forward combinations during the tournament.

Projected Starting Lineup (4-3-3)

GK Adam Larsen Kwarasey, LB Daniel Opare, CB Jonathan, CB John Mensah, RB John Pantsil, DM Derek Boateng CM Sulley Muntari CM Kwadwo Asamoah, LF Andre Ayew, RF Samuel Inkoom, CF Jordan Ayew

Key Player

John Mensah: With Isaac Vorsah suspended for the first two games, Ghana captain John Mensah will have to be a rock in the center of defense. He's likely to be paired with Jonathan Mensah (unrelated), who is hardly a slouch, but he doesn't have the same level of experience or pure athleticism as Vorsah. Behind them is a talented, but young keeper in Adam Larsen Kwarasey, while another youngster will play left back in Daniel Opare. Ghana have more talent than anyone in the tournament save for Cote D'Ivoire, but they will need John Mensah to lead them.

Prediction

Runners-Up: Ghana should not be upset on the road to the final. They're simply too talented to even be taken to extra time against any of the teams that are going to be put in front of them, if they play to the best of their abilities. The top talent of the Ivory Coast will be too much, however, as Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers finally lead their team to glory in a fantastic final.

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