It is no less delicate for the players, not only for those who have spent years trying to reach the World Cup only to find themselves inundated at the last moment with potential replacements, but also for the replacements themselves, who are tasked with blending in to a squad of prospective teammates but immediate rivals.
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“It can be a danger to get new players,” said Otto Addo, the coach of Ghana. “Especially if the players who were already there achieved something really good. There is a group dynamic that you do not want to break.”
Like Cameroon, Ghana has seen its ranks swelled by imports over the course of the last year: Five members of Addo’s squad in Qatar — including Brighton defender Tariq Lamptey and Athletic Bilbao’s Iñaki Williams — were born elsewhere but chose, in recent months, to commit their international careers to the country of their parents’, or parents’, birth.
There have, of course, been doubts about the purity of their motives. “I know some people are saying they have come because of the World Cup, but honestly we will never know,” said André Ayew, the Ghana captain. “But if they have the right heart, the right determination to die for the team, we are going to open every door we have to make them comfortable.”
Asamoah Gyan, a striker who was born in Accra, Ghana, and represented the country at the 2010 World Cup, wondered what would come after the tournament. “Afterward, they should still be available, because this is not a national team that engages in one tournament,” he said. “Once you have naturalized for Ghana, you should be fully committed.”
The players themselves have done what they can to assume those doubts. Lamptey, born in England to Ghanaian parents, has set up a foundation working with children in Nuaso, north of Accra. Williams, whose parents left Ghana while his mother was pregnant with him, spent time with his grandparents in the country over the summer.