OPINION | Is Ghana’s Mohamed Kudus the player of the group stages?

Mohamed Kudus is a name that will be familiar to many, having featured regularly for Ajax and provided positive performances against Rangers and Liverpool in the Champions League. However, the brilliance of the Ghanaian has been on full show in Qatar.

Traditionally, the World Cup is responsible for some significant transfers – James Rodriguez securing a move to Real Madrid in 2014 is a memorable example. In 2022, Mohamed Kudus could be next to seal a big move due to his performances at the tournament. Before the World Cup, Ghana were not fancied to qualify from a competitive group also featuring Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea. Although, in a grudge match that sees a repeat of the 2010 quarter-final with Uruguay, the Black Stars will likely only need a point to make the last 16. Ghanaians, far and wide, have Mohamed Kudus to thank for this possibility.

Ajax’s number 20 started Ghana’s opening match against Portugal in a flat midfield three. Unfamiliar territory for Kudus, who predominantly features as part of a front three on the right, a centre-forward or an attacking midfield role. A second-half tactical switch from Ghana coach Otto Addo pushed Kudus into a more familiar attacking role, instantly aiding Ghana’s attacking transitions, visible in Ghana’s equaliser. With an inside run between centre-back and full-back, he raced in behind and teed up Ayew with the aid of a deflection. The goal would not have been possible without the Ghanaian’s instinctive movement. Ghana may have lost the game 3-2, but it would’ve been worse without this extra attacking impetus Kudus provided.

Kudus’ performance in Ghana’s second match against South Korea epitomised his game. The 22-year-old scored twice, including the match-winner, leading to a 3-2 victory for the Black Stars. Illusive movement makes Kudus so unpredictable, as seen in his first goal. Again adopting the space between centre-back and full-back, the Ajax man managed to sneak in behind and got a deft touch to head the ball home after Jordan Ayew’s cross. At this point, Ghana were comfortably two goals up but South Korea launched a comeback to level the scores.

Ghana needed a hero, and they found it in Mohamed Kudus. With predatory instinct, he benefited from Iñaki Williams’ mis-hit shot to turn a cross home unmarked at the back post. A man for the big occasion, Kudus regained Ghana’s lead and gave the Black Stars a massive three points.

Kudus has been the difference maker for Ghana and has gone above and beyond high expectations placed on his young shoulders from fans in Accra and, with the grudge match against Uruguay approaching, another heroic display could cement him as a national hero and most pivotal player of the group stages. National redemption, hero status and the last 16 await.

Liam Wraith | GWFN

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