ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — After reaching the World Cup quarterfinals last time, Ghana is looking to do even better in Brazil under homegrown coach Kwesi Appiah.
Appiah’s only major coaching experience has been with Ghana’s national teams, but expectations are high for the softly-spoken former national team captain who in 2012 became its first Ghanaian coach in a decade.
After his appointment, Appiah called himself the “underdog” and reportedly deleted his Facebook account so as not to be influenced by outside factors. He also rarely reads media reports, he has said.
The 53-year-old Appiah, who played as a left back for his country, represents a shift in policy from the Ghana Football Association after a string of European — mostly Serbian — coaches in recent years. After Milovan Rajevac took Ghana to the quarterfinals in South Africa, beating the United States on the way, at least the same and ideally more is expected in Brazil.
Appiah learned his trade as an assistant with the national team and also guided the under-23 team to gold at the All Africa Games in 2011.
But his limited experience on the biggest stages is an area even he recognizes, and he has traveled to Europe to gather technical knowledge from Premier League clubs like Manchester City and Liverpool. In March, Appiah and his coaching staff traveled to England to look at European methods, the GFA said, spending time with Liverpool and proving he is eager to learn just months before his debut as a coach at the World Cup.
Along with Stephen Keshi, Nigeria’s African Cup-winning coach, Appiah is also part of a mini-shift toward homegrown coaches in Africa, a continent often associated with European imports. Appiah said at the African Cup of Nations last year that having confidence in his own ability was central to him succeeding as one of the few black national team coaches on the continent.
“The most important thing is the black coach being strong and not allowing people to tell you what to do. Most of the time that’s what happens,” Appiah said. “Once you are strong, you’ll be fine.”
Appiah’s only major tournament before the World Cup was last year’s African Cup, when Ghana lost surprisingly to Burkina Faso in a penalty shootout in the semifinals. Yet there was no real pressure on Appiah for his job, indicating the bosses were prepared for him to prove himself at the World Cup.
His team responded with a confident run through World Cup qualifying, beating Egypt 6-1 at home to set up a dominant 7-3 aggregate win over the seven-time African champions to qualify for the World Cup.
Appiah still knows Group G opponents Germany, Portugal and the United States will provide the biggest test of his young coaching career.