Since playing his way into the hearts of the Black Stars fans last year, 20-year-old defender Samuel Inkoom has become one of the most important members of Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac's squad, epitomising an exciting new generation of players in the national team known as the 'young and wild ones.'
The right-back made his international breakthrough at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2009 in Egypt, where he and his team-mates overcame the mighty Brazil on penalties in the final to win the coveted trophy.
The talented Ghanaian had already made the switch to Europe with FC Basel the previous summer and soon cemented his place in a team which currently lies second in the Swiss Super League. "I've been very pleased with my performances so far," he told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. "I think I've been playing well up to now and I've slotted into the team nicely."
However, it quickly becomes clear that not everything went quite as smoothly when he first arrived in Switzerland. "The biggest problem for me to begin with was driving. In Ghana, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Here in Switzerland it's a lot harder and you have to pay attention to a lot of things at once. I was caught by a speed camera as soon as I got here and had to pay a fine, but now I'm a good driver," said Inkoom with a cheeky smile.
There was also a major adjustment to be made in terms of the work ethic of Inkoom's new employers in comparison to former club Asante Kotoko: "At FC Basel, discipline ranks high on the agenda. Everything is very well organised, and you always have to be on time. That wasn't always the case in Ghana," said the Sekondi-Takoradi born full-back.
So why did he decide to join the 12-time Swiss champions? "Europe is a beautiful place. The training facilities at Basel are excellent and I feel completely at home here. Everything's going really well for me at the moment. There were a few clubs across Europe interested in me, but I decided to sign for Basel because they have brought on a few talented young players over the years. I can learn for my future here whilst giving my all for the team. Aside from that, Switzerland is a great country."
After finishing as runner-up in the Ghanaian Premier League last season, Inkoom once again looks likely to have to make do with second spot in the Swiss title race, although the confident defender seemed unperturbed by BSC Young Boys' six-point lead over Basel at the top of the table.
"It's difficult to say where we're going to finish at the end of the season, but one thing is clear: I believe in the team. If we continue to work hard and take our chance when it comes, we'll win the league and I'll be able to realise my dream of playing in the Champions League," Inkoom told FIFA.com optimistically.
Considering Inkoom's hugely successful career to date, which has seen him rack up both the 2009 African Youth Championship and FIFA U-20 World Cup titles, it is easy to see where this unbridled optimism stems from. Now the Basel No22 is hoping to cause a furore at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ as part of the Ghanaian senior national squad.
"I'm certain that we can go all the way in South Africa. We have the necessary quality and have a great chance of winning the World Cup. It's not going to be easy by any stretch, but we're in it to win it," he said with astounding self-assurance.
Nonetheless, Inkoom retained a healthy amount of respect for his forthcoming opponents on the biggest stage: "We didn't get the kindest draw for the World Cup. I have a lot of respect for Germany. They have a good team with some great individual players, but I can promise you one thing: we'll be doing our absolute best to beat them."
The fact that the Black Stars are going to be a force to be reckoned with in South Africa became abundantly clear at the CAF African Cup of Nations at the start of the year, where Inkoom and Co.'s dreams of the title were ultimately halted in the final by holders Egypt. Nevertheless, the Ghanaian youngster looks back on the tournament with great fondness.
"The defeat in the final didn't upset me too much. You win some, you lose some - that's football. I learned a massive amount during the course of the tournament and that gave me all the motivation I needed to keep working at my game. The experience I gathered in Angola is going to be very important later in my career."
Not one to rest on his laurels, Inkoom is determined to further improve: "I worked very hard to become a part of the Black Stars. It's not easy being in the Ghanaian national team because we have a lot of very good players, but I'm very proud to be part of the squad," he continued.
Towards the end of the interview, Inkoom gave his overall thoughts ahead of South Africa 2010, revealing to FIFA.com exactly what the tournament will mean to the people of Africa on the whole.
"All the African teams are ready for this tournament. We want to prove to the rest of the world that we can play good football too. I want to take this opportunity to thank FIFA for giving Africa the tournament. This World Cup is going to bring us all together.
"It's going to be a fantastic tournament upon which many new friendships are built. If we win the World Cup, all of Africa will be behind us, I'm sure of it. Furthermore, the World Cup is going to have a positive effect on the entire continent even after the tournament."