Jojo Wollacott
Jojo Wollacott

Ati-Zigi, Wollacott to battle for the gloves

This week, new Black Stars coach, Chris Hughton, is expected in town to begin work as he prepares the team for back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Angola.

His 25-man squad for the double header qualifiers beginning March 20 at the Baba Yara Stadium had few surprises except for newcomer Patrick Kpozo of Sheriff Tiraspol, as Hughton appears to be building on the squad he inherited from his predecessor, Otto Addo.

As technical advisor to Addo during his reign last year, Coach Hughton maintained the core of the team who are familiar faces he worked with including some notable absentees from Ghana’s World Cup squad such as goalkeeper Joseph Wollacott, Belgium duo of Majeed Ashimeru (RSC Anderlecht) and Joseph Paintsil (Genk) and Germany-based Ransford Yeboah Koningsdoffer (SV Hamburg).

Hughton’s team against Angola many not look different from his predecessor’s team at the World Cup, but it could throw up very exciting contests for some positions, particularly that of the first choice goalie in view of the return of Wollacott who was ruled out of the Qatar World Cup due to a freak injury just weeks to the tournament. 

Until the World Cup, Wollacott was Ghana’s first choice goalie since making his international debut in 2021, but Lawrence Ati-Zigi put his best foot forward and proved a worthy replacement during the World Cup in Qatar with an impressive performance despite Ghana’s first round exit.

Competition between Wollacott, Ati-Zigi and Abdul Nanaf Nurudeen of Belgian side KAS Eupen between the sticks will be one of the expected battles for position as 64-year-old Hughton takes charge of the national team and may make changes to some key positions to reflect his tactical philosophy.

Among the players whose positions look guaranteed are Skipper Andre Ayew of Nottingham Forest, in-form Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus, Arsenal midfield enforcer Thomas Partey, Salis Ahmed Samed, Jordan Ayew and the central defensive spine of Salisu Mohammed, Daniel Amartey and Alexander Djiku of Strasbourg.

Other players who will fight for attention include young forward Kamaldeen Sulemana who made a switch from the French Ligie 1 side Stade Rennes to English Premiership strugglers Southampton for a club record fee, as well as the likes of Edmund Addo, Joseph Aidoo, Ashimeru, Paintsil and Koningsdoffer who got little or no playing time during the reign of Coach Addo. 

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