Ghana's long and winding road to inevitably playing the USMNT at the semifinal stage of the 2022 World Cup took another surprising turn Tuesday as 28-year-old Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams declared himself open to selection after previously turning down Ghana's overtures.
Williams' parents left Ghana while his mother was pregnant with him and crossed the Sahara barefoot and without food or water before eventually arriving in Spain and making it to Bilbao. Being born in the city made Williams eligible for Athletic Club's Basque-only policy, becoming just the second black footballer to represent the side, and he's since gone on play every LaLiga game for the past six years — an unbelievable run of 227 matches in a row without injuries, suspensions or being dropped from the squad.
GOLASO INAKI WILLIAMS. WOW pic.twitter.com/HEaMPpaKgp— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 17, 2021
Williams' fierce love of Bilbao and Basque culture made him fully committed to representing Spain, but his lone cap at the senior level arrived in a 2016 friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ghana has always kept tabs on him, but Williams told The Guardian's Sid Lowe in a 2021 interview that he wasn't sure he deserved a place in the Black Stars squad.
"I admire and love Ghana, the culture, food, tradition. My parents are from Accra and I really enjoy going. But I wasn't born or raised there, my culture's here, and there are players for whom it would mean more. I don't think it would be right to take the place of someone who really deserves to go and who feels Ghana 100%."
However, Williams has altered his stance, and he's being fully supported by Ghana captain André Ayew.
Welcome home brother https://t.co/blsPpN7GbF— André Ayew (@AyewAndre) July 5, 2022
How much can Williams help Ghana? The Black Stars are still largely dependent on veterans André and Jordan Ayew in the final third, but there's a serious talent emerging in 21-year-old Ajax attacker Mohammed Kudus.
Williams isn't a lethal finisher but constantly asks questions of the backline while posing a significant threat on the counter. He scored eight in 38 league appearances last campaign (his high was 12 in 2018-19), and the 28-year-old is a manager's dream when it comes to consistency and tactical understanding.
Williams has a great relationship with Athletic playmaker Iker Muniain, and it's easy to envision Williams thriving with Ayew and Kudus while immediately acting as an upgrade on Benjamin Tetteh or Kwasi Okyere Wriedt.
It's been rumored that Iñaki's younger brother, the 19-year-old winger Nico, could also represent Ghana despite having already played for Spain's U-21 team, but we can thankfully end this edition of the USMNT Ghana Scouting Report without confirming that news.