How Kudus can spearhead Ghana to the last-16 at the World Cup


Ghana came into the World Cup as the worst ranked team heading to Qatar.


Sitting in 61st in the FIFA world rankings, many would have been surprised to see them so low, especially with the abundance of quality they have in their squad. But of course, the rankings system isn’t always an accurate representation of a team’s potential finish at the end of the World Cup, given form is the measurement of rankings, and it is arguable some had easier run ups to the World Cup than the Black Stars. 


Among the names that would have made the headlines most as Ghana’s star players, would have been Arsenal’s Thomas Partey, the Ayew brothers, among others.  


But on Monday, it was 22-year-old Mohammed Kudus who grabbed the spotlight with two goals, to put his country in pole position to qualify for the last-16 for only the third time in their history. 


Kudus currently plies his trade for Ajax, mainly as a forward, though occasionally used in midfield, and has shown glimpses of promise, especially in the Champions League this season, scoring four times and claiming two assists in six appearances. Even in his 504 minutes of Eredivisie action, he has scored five goals. These performances had already put a lot of top teams on high alert for his signature before the World Cup even begun, with Everton supposedly having come close to signing him in the summer. 


It is clear just from his appearances in Europe this season that he has great potential, as a player who likes to get at defenders with the ball at his feet and prolific in front of goal. 


In the Champions League this season, he has averaged 2.2 dribbles per 90, which rises to 2.8 so far at the World Cup, the latter ranking seventh of those to have registered at least 150 minutes of action. His shooting stats are quite similar also, with 2.3 shots per 90 at the World Cup and 1.6 in the Champions League. 


What's more, he is also adept at creating for teammates, having made five key passes in the Champions League this season, with his two assists coming when he played as a centre forward, highlighting the impact he can have further up the pitch. 


Against South Korea he earned a WhoScored rating of 8.58, only bettered in the game by South Korea’s Cho Gue-Sung, who earned 8.70. Kudus' two goals of course helped, while his brace came from two shots, but he was also able to complete one dribble and two tackles; only Thomas Partey and Jordan Ayew completed more in the game, with three.


How Kudus can spearhead Ghana to the last-16 at the World Cup


His performance was far better than his display against Portugal, where his WhoScored rating was only 6.84 and his impact was limited in the 3-2 defeat, though was played far deeper in midfield. With the change in position in the second game, Kudus was allowed the freedom to cause the South Korean defence problems and should he be deployed in a similar role this week, we will once again see the best of the youngster. 


Kudus will be hoping to spearhead Ghana on Friday as they look to qualify for the last-16 of the World Cup against familiar foe. It was 2010 the last time the Black Stars made it the knockout stages of the competition, and they were controversially knocked out by Uruguay in the quarter-finals. 


In their final group stage game, they will once again face off against Uruguay, knowing a win. and potentially even a draw. will be enough to see them through. This result would be a massive statement against one of the outsiders to win the competition, and would see the Black Stars claim their long-awaited revenge. 


The last time an African side played in the last-16 of the World Cup was 2014, when Algeria and Nigeria both progressed to the knockout stages, but failed to make it any further, with the last team making it to the quarter-finals being Ghana in 2010. No side from Africa has made it to the semi-finals. 


Now of course the win over South Korea was only one game and Uruguay won't be pushovers, with the likely opponents for Ghana in the last-16 no easy feat either, that to come in the form of tournament favourites Brazil.  


Ghana have shown in this year’s tournament, as they have in previous years, that they fear no opponent, and even in their loss to Portugal, they deserved at least a point, having gone toe to toe with Cristiano Ronaldo and co.  


If Kudus is unleashed as he was against South Korea in a more advanced role, then Ghana will be a real threat for any team, especially on the counter, and he can lead them to a historic win on Friday, and potential historic run in Qatar.

How Kudus can spearhead Ghana to the last-16 at the World Cup