Asamoah takes center stage

As a new squad takes shape,  Kwadwo Asamoah is central to Ghana's plans as the team’s heartbeat and talisman.

 The Cup of Nations has already played a major part in the so far brief Asamoah story.

He was drafted as a 19-year-old into the squad for the 2008 Nations Cup finals hosted by Ghana to replace injured captain Stephen Appiah, and, in a measure of the belief in his potential, he was also given the coveted No10 jersey. He made his debut for the Ghanaians in the third and fourth place play-off match against Côte d'Ivoire in Kumasi.

At the 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where he played every minute of Ghana’s unexpected march to the final and proved the engine room of the team with his playmaking role behind the strikers.

He understands the expectation to win again will be huge and he is confident the Black Stars will thrive on it. 

"I am not surprised because every fan would like to win something for their country, so for me the expectation is normal," he says. 

"For us, the players, it has to motivate us to say 'okay our country needs this so we have to work and push hard to win it and bring the cup home'. So I agree with the mentality of the fans. It will motivate us to do our best." 

The 24-year old has emerged as one of Ghana's highest profile players after a summer move to Juventus for whom he has become a regular in both the Italian Serie A and the Champions League. 

But although he has made more than 40 appearances for his country, he has often been criticised for his performances with suggestions that his performances are below the standard he reaches for his club. 

It is a perception Asamoah is desperate to change as he heads into his fourth straight Nations Cup. 

"There is a big difference in the way we play at Juventus and the way we play at Ghana. The training is different too so you can't compare the national team to a club side. 

"I always try to do my best. It is not like I am here and I don't want to play and do my best. I always want to fight for the nation. There are days that people say I didn't do well but it doesn't kill my spirit. It rather motivates me to do more." 

One of the biggest dilemmas facing Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah will be where best to utilise Asamoah's huge talent. 

Combining sharp technical proficiency with energy and dynamism, Asamoah is somewhere close to the complete, all-around modern midfielder. His competent distribution both in attack and defence helps his teams move quickly and subtly between different phases of play.

At Juventus he has played as wing-back on the left, putting in a great shift when tracking back and providing a vital source of assists when the side has gone forward, while for Ghana he has always been played in a central role. 

Asamoah insists he is not fussy about where he will play in South Africa. All he wants, he says, is to be part of a team that will function efficiently as a unit and win games. 

He says: "If we are united, I think we have the quality of players to win it with the right fighting spirit. Football is not about individuals. It's about team spirit and the hard work." 

Asamoah will be one of the in-form players in South Africa.

He is playing with a confidence which comes from the start he has made at Juventus since his move from Udinese in the summer. He’s also been able to force his way into a team that has one of the strongest midfields in Europe. 

Asamoah says he’s learnt a lot from training and playing with the likes of Pirlo. Fans of the Black Stars will be looking forward to him showing what he can do in South Africa.

 

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