Williams handed maiden Ghana call-up as Black Stars prepare for Qatar 2022

By Sports Desk September 06, 2022

Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams has been called up by Ghana for the first time, as the Black Stars look to finalise plans for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

The Spain-born attacker is eligible through his parents, who hail from the nation's capital Accra, and his inclusion comes after he made himself available in July for this month's friendlies with Brazil and Nicaragua.

Williams is a former Spain international, but with just one friendly cap to his name, against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016, the 28-year-old was able to switch his allegiance.

Ghana qualified for their fourth World Cup appearance earlier this year after edging Nigeria on away goals in the CAF play-offs.

Other inclusions include Southampton's Mohammed Salisu, who reportedly refused previous call-ups, and Brighton and Hove Albion's Tariq Lamptey, a former England youth international.

The Black Stars will feature in Group H at Qatar 2022, and will face Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay.

The upcoming friendies see them play Brazil in Le Havre, France, on September 23, before the Nicaragua game follows in Larca, Spain, four days later.

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    Jan Vertonghen was critical of Belgium's performance following a surprise 2-0 defeat to Morocco, referencing things he "better not say".

    The Red Devils would have become the second side to clinch their spot in the round of 16 with victory, but they were well short of their best, failing to create opportunities before succumbing to two late goals.

    Regarded as the last chance for glory for Belgium's golden generation, Roberto Martinez's side have now lost seven of their last 19 matches across all competitions (W9, D3), as many defeats as they had suffered across their previous 74 games combined (W57, D10).

    While Vertonghen feels Belgium were strong for the majority of the clash, he did not shy away from expressing his frustration at the manner in which the opening goal was conceded.

    Abdelhamid Sabiri's free-kick to the near post eluded Thibaut Courtois in a carbon copy of a first-half set-piece where Belgium were saved by an offside flag against Romain Saiss.

    "We didn't create much. I think we were good overall, we didn't give much away, just an identical goal twice," he told Sporza.

    "Twice a resumption of play at the first post. That ball should never go in. The first time we are lucky, but the second time not any more.

    "There are a lot of things going through my head that I better not say, or at least not outside [the dressing] rooms.

    "It's very frustrating. The first game was not good, and we got away with it well. Not today. I don't think we created any chances."

    Defeat to Croatia in the final Group F match on Thursday would result in an early exit from the competition, but Vertonghen believes his side still have the strength in the squad to progress.

    "I had the feeling that we were in a good position. We didn't get into trouble. They have a lot of quality in the front. So did we, but with them it came out more," he added.

    "After the first match, we thought it could only get better. We were hoping to qualify for the next round today.

    "Now we have a difficult final game in which everything will be at stake. The quality in the group is certainly there."

  • Brazil v Switzerland: Richarlison has God on his side in Qatar Brazil v Switzerland: Richarlison has God on his side in Qatar

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    Tottenham attacker Richarlison scored both of the Selecao's goals in their opening 2-0 win over Serbia on Thursday.

    After bundling in a rebound, Richarlison scored the goal of the tournament so far to double Brazil's tally, sending an acrobatic attempt into the left-hand corner.

    Richarlison has scored nine goals in his last seven appearances for Brazil in all competitions, becoming the eighth Brazilian to score a brace on his World Cup debut, and first since Neymar in 2014.

    Since his debut for the national side in September 2018, Richarlison has scored more goals in all competitions for Brazil than any other player (19).

    However, his World Cup participation was in doubt when he suffered a calf injury while in action for Spurs against his former side Everton in October.

    "A few weeks ago, I was crying, not sure if it would come," Richarlison said, as quoted by the CBF's official website.

    "On the day of the exam, it was one of the longest days of my life. I remember it was a day off and I went for the exam, I stayed on the stretcher waiting for the result to come out.

    "The doctors went back and forth, I got nervous and time went slowly.

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    Switzerland are looking to win their opening two games at a World Cup for the first time. They last won consecutive games in the competition in 2006 against Togo and South Korea.

    Brazil will be without Neymar, however, with their talisman having suffered an ankle injury against Serbia that will see him miss the meeting with Switzerland, though coach Tite was confident the Paris Saint-Germain star will feature again in Qatar.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Brazil – Vinicius Junior

    Richarlison rightly took the limelight for his efforts against Serbia, but he is not the only quality attacker Brazil have at their disposal.

    With Neymar out, the onus will be on Vinicius Junior – who has shown his world-class ability at Real Madrid – to step up.

    Before he was taken off inside the final 15 minutes of Thursday's match, Vinicius had been involved of 50 per cent of Brazil's 16 shots, having four attempts himself and creating as many chances, including the assist for Richarlison's stunning second.

    Switzerland – Breel Embolo

    Embolo has scored in three of his last four matches for Switzerland, with all three of his strikes being the winner in each game.

    The last Swiss player to score in consecutive World Cup games was Alexander Frei in 2006, while the only players to score in Switzerland's first two games at a World Cup are Leopold Kielholz in 1934 and Andre Abegglen in 1938.

    PREDICTION

    Brazil are unbeaten in their last 16 group stage games at the World Cup, and they are aiming to become the first team to go 17 without defeat in the group stages of the competition.

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    The probability of a draw is 21 per cent, while Opta rate the likelihood of a Switzerland win at 16.3 per cent.

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    "With Cristiano, I haven't had the chance to talk to him," he added. "The last match we spoke at was when we saw each other in London, when we played against Manchester United.

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