Blackstarsfan asks how Nigeria is ranked ahead of Ghana
So the latest FIFA ranking came out and I found it curious that Nigeria is ranked 12 places ahead of Ghana. Now far from adding logs to an already fiery but fraternal rivalry, I couldn’t understand how they are deemed better than Ghana in the first place. But 12 places ahead? C’mon man. This on the backs of our quarter-final win over the Super Eagles at the Cup of Nations? I know our last friendly played a part but surely the quality of opposition should matter. Ghana lost 2-1 to Bosnia in Sarajevo while Nigeria won against the Democratic Republic of Congo 5-2. I am simply questioning the methods they use. At this rate, it wouldn’t surprise me if Coke bottle tops are used and depending on who in the room selects what, the rankings are made. In other sections of the table, Brazil went to the top ahead of Spain. Is that how it’s going to end in the summer or will Spain finally ride its golden generation to win one? Will the Argies ride Messi’s good form to leap from seventh on the table to best in the world?
In other news, watching the second leg of the Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Inter Milan made me wish this story was true in a way. Instead the man has come out to categorically refute the story. Bummer. This is no knock on our coach who I think is tactically very good. It’s just that if it were a possibility that he would join a technical team, why wouldn’t you embrace it. His insight in a tight match could be the difference between getting to the quarter-final for instance and getting out in the group stages. But then again, in Mourinho’s world there is only space for him. Add to that a crowded kitchen with too many cooks and the broth comes out looking unpalatable.
Not to mention the unfairness of it all. Coach Milovan Rajevac took us to our second successive World Cup and I think he has earned the right to make the call on who will join him on the technical bench, who will scout for him, what strategy to employ. After all, I am sure he wants to win as bad as the best of them.
Back to the match, does Sulley play a match and not ever get at least a yellow card? The guy was on for about 15 minutes and it seems inevitable that he would pick up a yellow.
Smiles all around if Essien is passed fit
Going into the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Black Stars had an identity. Their play revolved around six core players who were at the top of their game. You asked a fan on the street to name a starting XI and more than likely Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, John Mensah, Richard Kingson and John Pantsil would roll off their tongues. We had a style of play and a formation (4-4-2) that worked. Our strength was our midfield and in defense we knew our limitations. Goal scoring was a problem but our midfielders made up for what our strikers lacked. In a tight game, you could count on magic from Appiah and the drive of Essien. We surprised many by coming out of a tough group losing only to eventual winners, Italy. Our success has raised expectations in Ghana. Being the first African World Cup, there is a deep yearning across the continent to see its representatives go far. Our unexpected appearance in the final of the African Cup of Nations earlier this year has further increased expectations.
Their maiden appearance was marked by stability, this year’s Black Stars is marked by change. It helps when a team has obvious traits or players you can point to as being at its core. Less than eight weeks to the tournament and we have no clue who are going to be at the heart of the team.
Michael Essien is injured and is struggling to be passed fit. His recent indications that he might miss the Cup don’t inspire confidence. If he does, Ghana’s chances of making an impact and carrying the aspirations of many Africans diminish. Mensah has battled with injuries throughout the season. Much like Tottenham’s Ledley King, he reportedly skips practices but plays in games. Is that sustainable and can he string together three games in a row in the space of a week and a half? Essien’s play in Germany was critical and his absence in the second-round game against Brazil was felt. At this level, you need at least one player of a certain class. Yet, the Stars’ inspiration and creativity undoubtedly came from Appiah. He is a born leader. But is the man who hasn’t played club football in two years going to be selected? In what role? Without him, who leads? The mantle falls on Essien but he has appeared a reluctant leader when thrust into that role. He retreats in the face of all the attention that comes with being the most recognizable face on the team.
This version of the team has many questions but few definitive answers. Perhaps the uncertainty will temper the expectations and the Black Stars will assume the underdog role they thrive in. The enthusiasm of the younger players may make up for the lack of experience and with the tactical discipline Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac demands, the Black Stars may once again shock the world and go one better. Or is this more a wish than a prediction?
NB: This is a longer piece I did for acceptance into the Guardian’s fan network during the World Cup.
Jerome Valcke and Danny Jordaan outdoor ticket design
So I am not sure how we got to this point but it appears time flies when you’re waiting for the World Cup to start. By now, most fans who were thinking of going to the world cup know whether they have been allocated tickets. I have a few friends who already have their plane tickets and accommodation set. Me? Not so much. No tickets for games or to fly, even though starting the journey now on foot or by boat is still an option I am seriously considering.
A lot has happened in the last 44 days as South Africa works round the clock to be ready but my focus has largely been on injuries. The Black Stars will go as far as the injury situation in the squad takes them at the World Cup. We have already lost the energy and determination of Opoku-Agyemang and if Coach Rajevac’s recent prediction comes true, it will be because our key players like Asamoah Gyan, Michael Essien, Kwadwo Asamoah and John Mensah are in good health. So whenever I check the news especially after weekend matches in Europe and I see “Gyan to Undergo Test Over Thigh Injury,” or “Mensah Faces Long Spell on the Bench,” or “Essien not Ready to Return,” my heart literally sinks and I wish I had Prof. Frimpong-Boateng’s number on speed dial on my phone!
Of course, you wake up on a day like today and see “Gyan’s Injury Fears Ease” or “Massive Boost for Ghana as Essien Starts Training” and you can be forgiven for doing a little hop scotch or jig.
It’s like a yo-yo, these emotions.
I am curious what kinds of plans fans are making for the world cup though. The fans that can afford to make it and those that can’t. Post your comments on blackstarsfan.wordpress.com