There are still noises about Mario Balotelli but it is more than a long shot to expect Ghana will be able to persuade the Internazionale talent to throw in his lot with their team before the World Cup.
But the Black Stars, and fellow African finalists Algeria, are moving to strengthen their squad with other players before the trip to South Africa. This despite both countries performing better than anticipated at January’s African Nations Cup finals in Angola.
Ghana have made a formal application to FIFA to change the status of Kevin Boateng, the Portsmouth midfielder who is German-born and played for them at youth level but whose father, as his surname suggests, hails from the west African country.
Boateng, on loan at Pompey from Tottenham Hotspur, now faces a real chance of playing against his younger brother at the World Cup finals. Hamburg’s Jerome Boateng won his first cap for Germany at the end of the World Cup qualifiers last November.
Kevin Boateng was supposed to play for Ghana at the tournament in Angola but the Ghanaian association apparently botched the paper work, at least according to FIFA. They have since submitted it all over again.
His addition will add to the selection headache that coach Milan Rajevac has already admitted to after an under strength squad surprised all and sundry by reaching the Nations Cup final in Luanda.
Ghana are also seeking a switch for Adam Kwarasey, an Oslo-born goalkeeper who has played for Norway at Under-21 level but is also eligible for Ghana where his father hails from. Kwarasey plays at Stromsgodset and could prove a competent back-up for veteran Richard Kingson, the English-based first choice in the Black Stars’ line-up.
Algeria’s coach Rabah Saadane went on a scouting trip in March in a bid to unearth yet more talent from their considerable Diaspora in Europe.
It suggests that despite protestations to the contrary the reported dissent on the eve of the Nations Cup was indeed as dramatic as the Algerian press played it out and that Saadane is now looking for adequate replacements for those involved in a revolt against his rule.
Saadane’s tour took him to Clermont Foot to look at goalkeeper Mikael Fabre and then onto watch Habib Belaid, a former French under-21 international who also has a claim to play for Tunisia. Walid Cherfa of Tarragona in Spain was also watched as were Djamel Mesbah at Lecce in Serie B.
Belaid is a strong candidate to team up alongside Majid Bougherra in the heart of the Algerian defence, where evidence from the tournament in Angola certainly suggests some fixing is needed.
Belaid had previously been approached by Roger Lemerre before Tunisia’s appearance at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany but then still had hopes of going onto become a French international.
Mesbah could have a role in the squad as back up for Nader Belhadj, who is banned for Algeria’s World Cup opener against Slovenia and now also has injury doubts.
Fabre could boost Lounes Gaouaoui, who is the country’s first choice but is injury prone. Second choice Faouzi Chaouchi is also banned for the first World Cup game after head butting the referee in the Nations Cup semifinal defeat to Egypt.
Algeria have been at the forefront of attempts to change FIFA statutes to allow players capped by one country at junior level to still be able to play for another, if they have double-nationality. There are now millions of descendants of post-war Algerian immigration in France and elsewhere in Europe and Algeria have successfully tapped into this vein.
Algeria managed to tweak the statutes even further in their favour at the last FIFA Congress in the Bahamas last year, so that the age limit on applications for a switch of footballing nationality no longer applies.
“We didn’t think it was fair that players (of African origin) were being selected for juniors teams of European countries and then never getting a chance to play at full international level. Our proposal was to give liberty and freedom to these players to have a right to choose,” explains Mohamed Raouraoua, Algeria’s football federation president and the architect of the proposal.
He followed Saadane around on his latest scouting mission and has been satisfied by the role Lazio midfielder Mourad Meghni, French born but of Algerian extract, and Djamel Abdoun, who benefited from the Bahamas change, played for Algeria in Angola.
“Having these players is a huge benefit for many African teams. Since 2003, we have had access to many quality players who have vastly improved our team. It improves the African game as a whole and it is improves the whole football product,” insists Raouraoua.