Black Stars coach, Chris Hughton, has thrown his support behind Athletic Bilbao striker Iñaki Williams, who has been under scrutiny for his goal drought since switching allegiance to the Ghana national team.
The 29-year-old made headlines when he opted to represent Ghana, the country of his parents, after previously leaning towards playing for Spain.
However, Iñaki has been on a goalless run in nine international appearances since his debut against Brazil in a friendly match in September 2022, a fact that has been closely observed by fans and pundits alike.
The pressure began to mount as he struggled to find the back of the net during the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar and the subsequent Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
His first encounter with African opposition came in March 2023, when Ghana faced Angola in back-to-back Afcon qualifying matches. Unfortunately, he missed the game against Madagascar in June due to an injury that required surgery.
Iñaki then returned to the Black Stars’ lineup for the final Afcon qualifier against the Central African Republic (CAR) on September 7. In this crucial fixture in Kumasi, Ghana secured a 2-1 come-from-behind victory to secure their place in the upcoming Afcon tournament in Cote d’Ivoire. Iñaki started the match but struggled to find the back of the net largely due to limited service. Coach Hughton decided to substitute him in the 69th minute, and his replacement, Antoine Semenyo, went on to assist Ernest Nuamah for the match-winning goal in the 88th minute.
In a press conference following the match, Hughton was questioned by the media regarding Iñaki’s goal drought and whether he is being deployed effectively in the Black Stars lineup.
However, the experienced manager firmly disagreed, emphasizing struggling Inaki’s qualities as a centre forward who has primarily played in that role throughout his career.
“This is a player that plays in a top league [LaLiga], can play in the wide area but predominantly, Iñaki is a Number 9. He is a center forward; this is the way he has played for the majority of his career,” stated Hughton.
He also noted that Inaki donned the Ghana shirt because he genuinely wants to be part of the team and is a top-class player.
“He is here [representing Ghana] because he wants to be here. He is a top player.”
Regarding Iñaki’s goal drought, Hughton remained optimistic, saying, “He’s found it difficult to get the goals here, and sometimes it might take a very lucky goal to score that gets him off the mark and things change.
“But with Number 9s, it is not always about scoring goals; it’s about what they are prepared to give the team.
“And yes, he is still waiting for that goal… I am quite sure at some stage it [the goals] will come for him.”
Iñaki Williams will have another opportunity to break his international goal drought when the Black Stars host Liberia in a friendly match at the Accra Sports Stadium on Tuesday, September 12.
Ghanaian fans and football enthusiasts will be eagerly watching to see if the star striker can find his scoring touch and contribute to the team’s success in future competitions.