Fabio Capello has put aside his own narrow interests in agreeing to England playing Ghana at Wembley on Tuesday in the middle of a European Championship campaign. The norm in such circumstances is to seek friendly matches against teams similar to the next competitive opponents, who are Switzerland on 4 June. The manager has a say about opposition for friendly games and Capello, who is leaving before the next World Cup begins, was prepared to risk becoming the first man in charge of the England team to be beaten by an African nation.
He almost suffered that fate against Algeria at the World Cup last June, when a goalless draw was ignominious enough, but despite the povertyof that performance, England remain unbeaten in 16 games against African sides. Ghana, 16th in Fifa's world rankings, can challenge that record even at something less than full strength. They should, of course, have passed one milestone for their continent last summer by reaching a World Cup semi-final, failing to beat Uruguay when Luis Suarez handled on the line in the final minute of extra time and Asamoah Gyan's penalty struck the crossbar.
Sunderland's Ghanaian contingent of Gyan, Sulley Muntari, who scored in that quarter-final, and John Mensah, who missed badly in the penalty shoot-out, were denied revenge over Suarez when Liverpool won at the Stadium of Light last week, and the calf injury Muntari picked up makes him a doubt for Wembley as well as today's African Cup of Nations qualifying game away to Congo.
Gyan is suspended for that match but travelled with his club-mates to their training camp in Kenya, as part of a draining week that has concerned Sunderland's manager Steve Bruce. "It's a heck of a schedule," he said of a programme that involves 4,000 miles of flying and two games in three days.
Blackpool's unpredictable goalkeeper Richard Kingson and the Fulham right-back John Paintsil are the other Premier League players in a squad weakened by the self-imposed absence of Chelsea's Michael Essien. Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng, formerly of Portsmouth and Spurs, is included, as well as a number of graduates from the team that won the World Under-20 Championship two years ago. Some 20,000 of their supporters will be at Wembley, contributing to a sell-out and hoping to see their team make history in the first meeting between the countries.
England v Ghana is live on ITV1 from 7.30pm on Tuesday