that one day Ghana will win a fifth Cup of Nations
The Finals. Need I say more? Actually, my focus today was going to be solely on the match but I have to say one or two things concerning CAF. I don’t mean to play to the gallery here but seriously? Like, really? I am all for law and order, following rules and such but this decision was so unnecessary I can’t even express my outrage eloquently so I will let someone else take a stab at it. And I can’t help but think if this had happened to a big country like Nigeria, South Africa or a country like Ghana with 22 million people having bullhorns as mouths, they wouldn’t have dared. Nevertheless, Togolese must be invoking Kelis in their condemnation of Issa Hayatou and his henchmen. Can mes amis Togolais be blamed? I think not.
Now, to the BIG GAME. It must be the prayers because I saw a sign. A sign that we could win this cup. All of a sudden, in my mind’s eye, there is a path to victory for the boys in what is for many of them the biggest game of their lives. It starts with the Malian brother who is going to be in the middle and who must also be sick to his stomach at the prospect of Egypt’s third Cup of Nations win on the trot. It then goes to the 89th minute penalty that he gives after a rather cagey match which until that point remains deadlocked (See our soft penalty against Cote d’ Ivoire). A focussed Kwadwo Asamoah steps up and wrong foots Hadari. Add to that the minute he adds to time added on despite the numerous fouls committed by our players and countless stoppages and we’re home. Dede Ayew sprints to hug his brother as both contemplate improbably surpassing their dad’s achievements 18 years ago.
Cue the wild scenes and celebrations in the streets of Accra, London, New York, Greenland and everywhere there’s a Ghanaian Association. Oh, Hamborg, Jahmain too. Total strangers hug each other as though they had been rescued from the imaginary wreckage that befell Accra a couple of weeks ago during the April Fools come early earthquake. Songs will be blared at the highest volumes possible. Even newer music will be produced and we would even be gracious to the vanquished by singing Egyptian ones too! And by the end of the night, all public servants would ordered not to report to work. It’s a holiday!!! In return, they are to show up at the airport to welcome the victorious players. Ahhhh, if wishes were horses, Black Stars will be shining!!!
Shine on my boys. Give it every ounce you have left. But remember, whatever fate befalls you tomorrow, I will still be a proud Ghanaian and an even more enthusiastic Black Stars fan.
It takes five
Man, what a charmed life Ghana led in the game against Nigeria!!! We dodged some bullets. I thought it was hard luck on the Nigerians who were more adventurous but whose lack of cohesive team play and poor finishing let them down. Having said that, every time you thought a Nigerian player was one on one there was a Ghanaian player present to throw him off.
So, on to the next one. For Ghana to win their fifth cup we are going to have to win our fifth game. How is that for symmetry? It will take five to win five. Ok, enough with trying to sound clever.
Before the two previous games, I saw a path on the field to victory. As in tactically, there were many ways I could envisage to victory. I am sorry, forgive me for the blasphemous statement I am going to make but this time I just don’t see it. I don’t see how we are going to win this match against Egypt if we continue to play so defensively and if we continue to insist on regarding members of the other team as our own and passing them the ball whenever we get it. I just don’t see us winning.
But allow me to vacillate a little bit. The game is on Sunday and if my Muslim brothers and sisters pray today and the seventh day adventists grace the team tomorrow and then main man TB is brought in on Sunday after the game to give his hopefully favorable predictions and to crown all the fasting, the prayers with tongues, the wuzus, and I could go on, then maybe we can ask the men on high and the ancestors to make sure that they write Ghana’s name on the cup!!!
Before looking forward though, let’s look back. I hope the kids were put to bed during the game or at least their eyes shielded because that was far from pretty. We are about to pull a Greece in this tournament if we win with such a negative style of play. But even Otto Rehagel must be turning over in his grave (mind you, he’s not dead yet). What with our misplaced passes, our total lack of team play offensively and our at times needlessly frantic defending.
And if I am sounding like a sour person, the victory was SWEET oh. I mean especially as it was against the Guinness-sponsored 150 million strong Naija, especially as it was a victory as the underdogs and was probably the hardest game that the Stars had played so far. Man, it was sweet. I just don’t want to reach that sugar high and come back crashing and that’s why I would like to see a path to victory!!!
So long but let me know if you see a path to winning five for our fifth.
Ghana v Nigeria, a dicey affair
Ladies and gentleman, it’s going to be a crapshoot predicting the result in today’s game. I clearly want Ghana to win but feel a lot has to go right today for us to again pull it off. To begin with, I think this is a game that will reward the bold. It’s a game that will reward the team that takes a little more risk and puts a few more men in attack.
It is why I think we should play a 4-3-1-2 formation. So basically keep the back four, put Anthony Annan back into the starting lineup to pair with Agyemang Badu and Dede Ayew on the left. You then put Kwadwo Asamoah just behind the two attackers and you have a team ready to neutralize John Obi Mikel and Obasi in the middle and Odemwingie on the right. (Odemwingie and Obasi often change positions during the course of the game so they pose identical threats). But more importantly we have the opportunity to attack Nigeria and this is one game where I believe the best form of defense may be to attack. In my view we have to keep possession and give ourselves the option of taking the game to the Nigerians the way the Zambians did. This formation allows us to be more dynamic when we win the ball and put more pressure on Etuhu and Shittu and Apam’s replacement. Below is how the suggested strategy would look.
Samuel Inkoom Isaac Vorsah Lee Addy Hans Adu Sarpei
Agyemang Badu Anthony Annan Dede Ayew
Matthew Amoah Asamoah Gyan
Otherwise, I think it will be fairly balanced game and don’t expect more than one goal to separate the two teams. And we’ll leave it to a South African to be the final arbiter when the game gets sticky. Of course, all that does not matter where some of our regular players are concerned as Laryea Kingston thinks this one is in the books as a Ghana win. Of course the Super Eagles are plotting secretly, in the open, on the pitch to inflict pain.
As for the all North African affair, I so want Algeria to win it’s not even funny. And that with all due respect should be even more of a cracker than our game. The quality in that game I would expect would be higher.
Hopefully, at the end of the day we are talking Ghana v Algeria in the final.
Black Stars and Super Eagles are ready to lock horns Thursday
The chickens have come home to roost as Eagles and are poised to make an improbable run to the final and even lift the cup. After being largely outplayed by the Copper Bullets, the Eagles came through in the penalty shootout to set up an intriguing match with Ghana.
Ahhh. Mouthwatering. Like fufu and light soup with goat meat. Or is it eba and egusi with eagle? Naija, I keed. The clash is going to be so hot I can see the steam from both bowls. Erm, camps. Ghana’s undermanned squad should be psyched up to face off against an underperforming Super Eagles squad who nevertheless have big players who can at any opportunity turn a match.
In Ghana, you have a squad that is somewhat limited in its attacking options but a team that has a fighting spirit and is organized to defend a lead. They play with a chip on their shoulder, the possible result of having been written off by many of their own. Like rejected children who’ve been embraced under one roof by a common family, they have a steely edge. They want respect. You know, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Just a little bit. The players play for each other, fight for each other and are devoted to the person whose roof they are under (Coach Rajevac). They have also displayed grit, discipline, a strict adherence to the coach’s instructions and a mental toughness you usually associate with battle tested teams.
In Nigeria, you have players whose reputation precedes them like Yakubu Ayigbeni that seem committed but look like they haven’t played much football in the run up to the tournament and are using the tournament to regain their skills. You also have Osaze Odemwingie who is clearly Nigeria’s best player and whose individual brilliance can turn a match at a moment’s notice. Otherwise, you have a nation of 150 million people who regardless of how terrible their team look can’t seem to stop supporting them. It’s like the train wreck. You know you won’t like what you’ll see but you can’t help but watch. Either way, expect the prospect of a rivalry game to bring out the best in the Nigerians, the display we have all been holding our breath to see.
As for tactics, I will have to think about it a bit longer but my preliminary thoughts are that using the same strategy we used in our previous match against Angola against the Nigerians will be giving them too much credit. I think there’ll be opportunities to attack Nigeria and take advantage of the likes of the ‘splendid’ Etuhu and also the left back. As to whether that should be in a 4-4-2 as opposed to a 4-3-3 is the question. In a 4-3-3 you would be sacrificing a striker like Amoah but I think that plays into the hands of the rugged Shittu. Hmmm, all sorts of permutations.
Meanwhile the coach’s attempt at some Mossad-type espionage did not work.
Scored a wonderful goal
First of all, thank God for this victory. Next, thank God for creating Manucho and his wastefulness. And then thank God for creating Asamoah Gyan who finished his only real chance sublimely. And then thank God for creating Kwadwo Asamoah, the best player on the pitch. And then thank God for creating this Black Stars team. Full of grit, hard work, determination.
Excitement is biting my tongue at this point so this post will be short.
But essentially what I called for this morning happened in this game. The coach started with a 4-4-1-1 strategy. We started off with the intent of shutting down the supply lines to the forwards and we succeeded. We went ahead on a wonderful rope a dope play. Kwadwo Asamoah played the ball into the path of Gyan who latched on to it and after a touch put it into the corner of the goal. What a goal. We then basically looked to catch them on the break after that. We also put men behind the ball and were committed to the strategy. Our defensive efforts neutralized Mabina who to me was one of the dangerous players on the Angolan team. That constant supply of incisive crosses that Flavio feasted on in previous games was largely absent. I thought our pressure from the strikers up top helped in stifling the Angolan’s attempts to play through the middle.
It’s always easier to gloss over some of our mistakes though when we win. There were a few clear cut chances for the Angolans because of our mistakes. We were jittery in the last few minutes of the first half and a few moments in the second half caused me heartache but keeping two clean sheets is not easy and say what you want they kept a clean sheet.
Prayer may be the key to victory today against Angola
Alright all you God-fearing fans of the Black Stars. Not sure what you originally planned on praying for today at church, but please include the team in your prayers. I believe my muslim brothers and sisters paved the way on Friday so I think we should cover all bases.
The game is going to be hot. I like our chances though. I like that the narrative is that we are underdogs in this match as I think it gives that added motivation to any competitive sportsman. In order to win, Ghana will have to display mental toughness. They will have to combine that with some tactical discipline, efficiency in front of goal, team spirit and possibly some luck.
By mental toughness, I mean do not get frustrated when the referee deems every tackle you go into a foul. Don’t be frustrated when the hard tackles by the Angolan defenders go unpunished. There will likely be vibrations in the stadium and your ears may be ringing but quieten that beating heart, be calm and take Kwadwo Asamoah’s attitude of the fans never scored a goal, made a tackle or prevented a goal.
While tactics are important, I think it is equally important to talk scenarios. It is vital that we don’t concede in the first 45 minutes. Knockout round games usually start off in a cagey manner and while looking for a fast start to match the atmosphere, the Angolans will not be kamikazes and go all out. I think they’ll start off trying to feel the game. So make sure you keep the ball in front of you and strike them on the flanks when you can and land the classic rope a dope sucker punch a la Ali. In the event we go up 1-0 you basically have to switch it up, leave one man up top and then hit the Angolans on the counter. In the event we go down a goal, there’s no need to panic. Just play your passing game and play down the wings with specific instructions to the strikers not to take the extra touch before attempting crosses.
As for tactics, I think the players were very comfortable playing 4-4-2 and we should stick with that. The Angolans will flood the midfield and I think keeping four midfielders with an Agyemang Badu pairing with Asamoah is the way we should go. While it sacrifices Asamoah’s attacking, the focus should be on the unit and not one player’s individual brilliance.
As for good luck, maybe one of the bad parts of the pitch gives the wrong bounce to a defender only for Amoah or Gyan to pounce!!!
Otherwise, turn to prayer!!!
Dede and co should expect more of such battles
More opinions on the Black Stars performance and prospects in the rest of the tournament. But one of the players actually going to duke it out on the pitch is emboldened by the Burkina effort. Although Kwadwo Asamoah is not our captain he has fast become one of the effective leaders on the field of play.
Meanwhile, our big captain is back in London and his club is not going to ask for moolah from a poor third world country. Phew. On a light note about our captain, a local radio station did a phone-in with multiple choice answers about who Essien was texting/chatting to on his phone during the Burkina game. I reproduce it here so other Black Stars fans can join in.
A. Sulley Ali Muntari
B. Stephen Appiah
C. TB Joshua
F. Nadia Buari (Essien’s oft-rumored girlfriend)
G. None of the above
(Please feel free to take this as lightheartedly as possible)
Ok, now to the big issues. As one man goes another returns. Anthony Annan has been declared fit for the match which is important because if I am not mistaken, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu did not escape suspension for the knock-out rounds after two yellow cards. Also, a report monitored yesterday said the Ghanaians have formally applied for more security. A Ghanaian fan was assaulted after the Burkina Faso match. The Ghanaian Football Association also petitioned CAF which would inevitably send it on to the Local Organising Committee run by Angolans who will probably just give it to God. TIA people and the players are just going to have to adjust. That’s easier said for some than others.
But at this point the eight quarter final teams are just going to have to get used to being far from home.
Angola v Ghana
Algeria v Cote d’ Ivoire
Egypt v Cameroun (Game of the round)
Nigeria v Zambia
It should be a rocking time!!!
My man of the match
Whew!!! That was a close one yesterday a la Buju. But like I said yesterday before the game I didn’t care how it came about.
It was a gritty performance by the Black Stars yesterday in Luanda and they have bought themselves yet another game at the African Cup of Nations with a 1-0 victory against Burkina Faso. And better days may well be ahead as we grow from strength to strength.
We played doggedly and were tactically very disciplined. It wasn’t the best of performances but we fought hard and that spirit was in my view best exemplified by my boy Dede Ayew. Haminu Dramani brought some energy, creativity and strength to the right side of the pitch. A lot of people on radio today weren’t impressed with Dramani and I think that had to do with his waste of a few gilt-edged chances but for me he was full of running and provided adequate cover and a ready outlet for Samuel Inkoom, our right back.
Defensively, we were solid. We committed a few too many fouls which another more capable team may have exploited but for the most part, we were up to the aerial challenge that the Burkinabes presented. And after Mr. Tall of Burkina got sent off, we threatened to run riot but we weren’t clinical enough in front of goal.
A few other points. Essien must have been having the most interesting conversation on his phone, was talking to his feet so they heal miraculously before the next match or something but his body language in the stands the few times they showed him was not one of a captain being there for his team. He was there but his mind was faaaaaarrrrrrr away.
Kwadwo Asamoah had a quieter game but it was a brilliant game in my view. He attacked, he tracked back and held the line preventing any glaring breakdowns defensively.
Looking forward, I think our chances against the Angolans are just as good as any. I think the Angolans present a speed problem but I don’t see their defense as impregnable. See 4-4 draw as evidence of that. We will have to weather the early storm and settle down but after we do that I think they could be had.
Finally, I think the more matches the younger boys get the better for our World Cup qualification. It gives the boys confidence in the event they have to be on the pitch at the mundial.
On a trivial note, I think I like the red jersey with yellow stripes. Kuul.
Today’s match is to use a cliche, the ‘mother of all battles.’ Why on earth they never say father beats me but let’s go with our maternal instincts on this one and even call it the grandmother of all battles. And just in case you have been living underneath a rock, this is what we are talking about.
And as if we didn’t have enough problems, another man down. Of course, if we are to win by any means necessary that shouldn’t matter, should it? We should even field nine men while we are at it. I keed, I keed. We probably need to sneak in a 12th man to get around that stout Burkinabe defence. More seriously though, all these injuries may force the coach to play the players he has in positions that they are familiar with. For instance a right winger should play on the right wing, a left winger on the left and so on. And to me that’s a good thing. The time for experimenting is over.
In better news, one of our more experienced players should be on the pitch. Speaking of the pitch, apparently the Ghanaian government asked a groundsman, Frank Boahene, the man who supervised the cultivation of grass at the CAN 2008 to advice the players on how to approach the field in Luanda. Clearly no stone is being left unturned.
Meanwhile try not to look in envy at some of the participating teams. They have had it easier in having three games to try and qualify. We can aim all of our toes or fingers (whichever is most menacing) at our neighbors to the right if we don’t qualify. But never mind, I promised not to look back.
So to recap. If we score 1/2 a goal which I don’t think is possible, Ghana qualifies. 1-0 to Ghana we qualify. 10-9 to Ghana we qualify. 0-0 draw, then it’s suck your fingers, flow the tears, sulk your way back to grandmother who clearly decided it wasn’t our day. Good Luck to the Boys!!!
The Stallion must be slayed!!!
Those of you who have ever broken up with a boy/girl can attest to the sweetness, however fleeting a rebound is. Well, I don’t care how fleeting a victory tomorrow will be. Just beat the bulldogs, or nightingales or whatever in God’s name the Burkinabe national team is called. Whether our task got more difficult or not, I don’t care. Whether we have to win because the referee gave a dubious decision against the Stallions or he kicked it in himself or the goal was supposed to be offside I don’t care.
Actually, I care if karma has anything to do with it. But you guys get my drift right? I mean there have been such sleepless night and so much consternation in Ghana that even this rumor gained traction!!! C’mon people, do you think predicting earthquakes is like predicting a football match? I was half-expecting Right Reverend, Pastor, Bishop TB Joshua to come out of wherever he is hiding these days to say he predicted the earthquake. Speaking of predictions, let’s not even go there. I was wrong but so were close to 20 million people. I will leave the predictions to the side for the next game and lock myself in fasting and prayer instead.
Otherwise, there is very little to report.