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Excitement in Kumasi as Black Stars begin training

BY: Sports Desk report
Black Stars training
Black Stars training

Excitement is growing in Kumasi as the Black Stars arrived in town Tuesday afternoon to begin final preparation ahead of Friday's clash with Nigeria's Super Eagles in the first leg of the FIFA World Cup qualifying playoffs.

Football fans and some workers at the Kumasi Airport gathered around to cheer the players and officials, led by football legend and member of the Black Stars Management Committee, Samuel Osei Kuffour, as they made their way into the team bus to be conveyed to their hotel.

Friday's blockbuster match is the talk of the Garden City as the national team return to Kumasi for a competitive match for the first time since 2018. And coincidentally, the last time the Baba Yara Stadium hosted a similar encounter eight years ago, the Black Stars dismantled Egypt 6-1 in the first leg playoffs for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Full squad

Tuesday morning, caretaker coach Otto Addo had almost the full complement of his 27-man squad to face the Super Eagles, with the notable exception of England-based Jordan Ayew, for their first training at the stadium with other sessions fixed for today and on Thursday afternoon.

According to the Ghana Football Association spokesperson, Henry Asante Twum, the Crystal Palace forward is expected in camp later today after getting a late medical clearance.

To ensure maximum concentration and at the request of the coaches, the team is camped at an unnamed hotel at the outskirts of town.

The Daily Graphic understands that the Black Stars will meet the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who will motivate them to win Friday’s match and go on to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Otto Addo's squad was shrouded in secrecy until it was unveiled with former first choice goalkeeper Richard Ofori and injured midfielder Mohammed Kudus making a return alongside four debutants -- Denis Odoi, Felix Afena-Gyan, Elisha Owusu and Hearts of Oak defender Dennis Korsah as the only home-based player in the squad.

Debutants

Teenage sensation Afena-Gyan is one of the rising players in the Italian Serie A and an integral part of Jose Mourinho's AS Roma side, while 33-year-old Odoi is a utility player capable of play across the various positions in defence.

Born in Belgium to a Belgian mother and a Ghanaian father, the Club Brugges defender has made one appearance for Belgium's senior national side -- 2–2 draw against Montenegro -- but previously represented the country's Under-20 and U-21 teams.

France-born Owusu, 24, plays in midfield for Belgian topflight side Gent, having previously played for French Ligue 1 teams, Lyon and Sochaux.