Today is a rest day at the world cup with no matches and with more time on my hands I decided to watch some of the games of the second round. Of particular interest were Ghana and Uruguay’s second round matches. Isn’t it always easier to analyze a game dispassionately when you know the result and furthermore when the result is in your favor? Ghana’s win against the US was not its most complete match tactically or from a focus perspective. For that, you’d have to look to the losing effort against Germany. Ghana’s performance against Germany carried over into the US game. The team started off by being composed on the ball, worked quickly and aggressively to get the ball back when they lost it and were in command of what they were doing. They were confident. It was as though matching the Germans every step of the way had given them a swagger.
The grit, determination and will they showed in the match against the US when the Stars and Stripes had the momentum was most impressive. I thought in terms of showing the quality to will yourself to a win, it was probably the best I have seen from a Ghana team in a while. They played like they really, really wanted to win. Even when things were not going their way, you could see they were all trying hard. It is not a quality you often see with the Stars but on this day I thought their attitude was excellent. At this point in the cup, in some games it comes down to a combination of who wants it more and who is luckier.
In the first half, we were dominant. We had one glaring lapse where a missed clearance by Jonathan Mensah allowed the Americans to come up with a wonderful opportunity that Robbie Findley failed to utilize. Kevin Prince Boateng obviously took his goal well and after that we were clearly in control. The second half was markedly different. The Americans pressed higher up, forced a quicker tempo, passed the ball more crisply and in more attacking positions and they created a few opportunities that left the Ghanaians scrambling. Watching the match live I thought the Americans had us pinned and were the more likely to win. Watching it again, I think it was a more nuanced game than I was seeing live. I think it was certainly a more open game in the second half and both teams had some good possession and chances. The Americans definitely had the advantage in the chances department but all in all, I thought we gave as good as we got. If the American strikers were more deadly in front of goal it could have been a different story. But then again, if the Ghanaians were more attack-minded we could also have created more chances.
For the first time in the tournament, I thought fatigue became a factor for the Ghanaians as the game wore on. Some of the players seemed heavy legged and the US exploited that and got behind the defense a few times especially on the flanks. The Stars huffed and puffed their way to the end though. And they needed to.
Let’s face it, while our first half was dominant and I believe took the confident Americans off guard, in the second, we were in danger of cracking. That sense was present throughout the second half and at the beginning of extra time. That was of course until Mr. Asamoah Yes We Gyan came through in a big way and scored a very good goal.
Looking ahead, Dede Ayew’s suspension will be a big blow. He does so much for the team defensively and offensively that there is bound to be a drop off. While I think we have a couple of players that can replace what he does going forward, I don’t know that any of the players on the bench can give that defensive cover. Opoku Agyemang, where art thou?!!!
If he is joined on the sidelines by Kevin Prince Boateng due to injury, send a paramedic to my room because I would be even more worried.