Ghana vs Switzerland Preview: Black Stars and Otto Addo begin audition for World Cup

Thankfully, that was put to bed on Monday when Otto Addo named his 26 lieutenants for the quest in Qatar.

The exclusion of Jeffrey Schlupp and Joseph Paintsil, both in form and playing regularly, has divided opinion but there’s no doubt that this is one of Ghana’s strongest squads in recent years.

As the Black Stars prepare to face Switzerland in their last warm-up game before the World Cup, many will be looking to see how well they fare against top opposition.

Since taking charge in late February, Addo has done well to restore belief in a team that was tactically non-existent and mentally in tatters following Ghana’s disastrous outing at the 2021 AFCON.

However, for all the gains chalked under the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder – including qualifying for the World Cup after bettering Nigeria in the playoffs – the Black Stars have only won two out of eight matches under Addo.

Those wins came against Madagascar and Nicaragua, both being teams at the nadir of the football rankings. It goes without saying that Ghana is yet to excel against top opposition, having been battered 4-1 by Japan and also humiliated 3-0 against Brazil in the last two international windows.

Against Switzerland on Thursday, Addo and his side will be facing one of the best teams in the world. The Red Crosses are currently enjoying the fruits of a golden generation that is bent on achieving something special.

Led by Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, Switzerland boast both quality and squad depth across the pitch. Goalkeeper Jan Sommer shields and star-studded backline that includes Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji and Ricardo Rodriguez.

In midfield, Remo Freuler, Noah Okafor and on-loan Chelsea man Denis Zakaria are all options available to coach Murat Yakin and any of the aforementioned could partner skipper Xhaka in the middle of the park.

The Swiss are also not lacking options in attack, where Xherdan Shaqiri, Breel Embolo, Haris Seferovic and Reuben Vargas are all ready to blossom when picked.

The quality of the Europeans means Ghana will have to be at their best to get anything from this game. Inasmuch as the Swiss are huge favourites, Addo equally has at his disposal a solid team that, if they click into gear, could upset any side on any day.

The youngest team heading into the World Cup, Ghana can still boast of a few world beaters in the likes of Thomas Partey, Mohammed Kudus and the Basque-born Inaki Williams.

Granted that these players haven’t played together enough, but Ghana’s defence can rival many across the world, with Salisu Mohammed, Alexander Djiku, Daniel Amartey, Tariq Lamptey and Denis Odoi all in good form.

The Black Stars’ biggest question marks, however, lie in the goalkeeping department, where the absence of Jojo Wollacott and Richard Ofori – first- and second-choice, respectively – has left Addo in a conundrum.

The Ghana coach has been forced to rely on Lawrence Ati Zigi, Manaf Nurudeen and Danlad Ibrahim, all of whom have less than five Ghana caps combined, and must picked one as his no.1.

It also remains to be seen which midfield combination Addo will opt for: to play Partey in a deep-lying role similar to how Arsenal deploys him or push him higher up the pitch.

In the end, though, this is just a preparatory game and all that Ghanaians will be hoping to see is how well the team gels against top opposition.

Switzerland reached the round of 16 in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, while also making the quarter-finals of Euro 2020. Suffice to say, the Red Crosses also bested Italy in qualifying for Qatar and have been getting better year after year.

Yakin’s side should be a good test for Ghana, who will be facing Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay in Group H of the World Cup. The Black Stars may yet to forgiven for losing this friendly, but it wouldn’t look good if they roll over without showing any fight or character.

And with just three days to the start of the World Cup, a win will be a huge morale booster for either side going into the global showpiece.