Timing can be critical to sporting success and five days before their FIFA World Cup opener, Ghana may have found a new star at the ideal moment.
Jordan Ayew struck his maiden international hat-trick for Ghana on Monday, taking advantage of an early injury to Abdul Majeed Waris to push his claims to coach Kwesi Appiah for a starting berth against the United States on June 16.
With Ghana having developed a reputation as team that lacked genuine goalscorers, Ayew may have timed his run perfectly.
Ghana reached their maiden World Cup quarter-final in South Africa four years ago on the back of a strong defensive system and the goal-scoring prowess of Asamoah Gyan.
In just their second World Cup appearance, Ghana were eliminated by Uruguay in a penalty shootout, after the score remained 1-1 following 120 minutes, and the Africans completed the tournament with a scoring rate of just one goal per game.
Gyan scored three of them.
Four years on and seemingly little had changed before Monday's 4-0 thrashing of South Korea.
Appiah's team had looked set to start Brazil 2014 having scored more than two goals in a match just once in the past 12 months, while Gyan had hit the back of the net five times in that period.
But after Waris was forced off in the sixth minute at Sun Life Stadium, following a tough tackle from South Korea's Ki Sung-yueng, Ayew stepped onto the pitch and strengthened his case to start against the USA in Group G.
"We have a crop of talented players coming through but I think Jordan Ayew will have a fine tournament," Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari told GhanaSoccernet after the match.
"I expect him to be a revelation at the World Cup. Fans must be patient with him because he's one of our future stars.
"He just needs to keep calm and focus and I tell you the world will truly see his potential. He will surprise the world."
Ayew experienced a tough season in 2013-14 with the Marseille striker scoring just two goals in 22 games for the Ligue 1 club in all competitions before being loaned to Sochaux in January.
At Sochaux, Ayew struck five times in the French league in 17 appearances but was unable to help the club avoid relegation.
But against South Korea, Ayew seemed full of confidence and opened the scoring in the 11th minute when he took his brother Andre's cutback and thrashed his shot past Jung Sung-ryong thanks to a deflection.
After Gyan made it 2-0 just before half-time, Ayew extended Ghana's lead further with a strike from outside the box, while he completed his hat-trick in the 89th minute with a volley from Afriyie Acquah's cross.
The hat-trick could take Ayew ahead of the likes of Waris and Christian Atsu to start alongside Gyan and Kevin-Prince Boateng up front at the Arena das Dunas.
"The game was the perfect game the Black Stars needed," said Ayew's eldest brother Rahim, who is not in Ghana's squad.
"I was really impressed with the maturity of Jordan and I felt he linked up well with Asamoah Gyan.
"They played well and looked very dangerous whenever they had the ball, a good thing for Ghana going into the World Cup."
|Coach: K. Appiah|
for J. Ayew 59'
for M. Rabiu 71'
for C. Atsu 78'
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