Talk about a washout. The Black Stars played out an uninspired draw against the Nile Crocodiles of Sudan at the Baba Yara stadium in Kumasi Sunday. And as if that were not enough, fans were drenched when a heavy downpour commenced shortly after South African referee Jerome Damon’s final whistle. All this made for unhappy faces with the intensity of the lashing rain raising the question, who was unhappier at the Stars display, God or the fans?
Leading up to the game, there were intriguing subplots with many surrounding the departure of a certain Serb. Akwasi Appiah was in charge of the Black Stars temporarily. A good result would be evidence for those inclined to give him the job for an extended time.
This was a poor result, no matter how you slice it and rekindles the local-foreign coach debate in a way that probably does not favor a local coach. Add the lack of collective energy we are used to seeing from the Stars and it was disconcerting. Yet, it would be unfair if this result alone weakens Appiah’s chances.
In his own way he tried to establish an identity by making a couple of interesting decisions with mixed results. Jordan Ayew started the game on the right of the attack, a role Prince Tagoe came to be identified with under Milovan Rajevac. Ayew started off well but faded as the match went on. The stand-in coach also effectively replaced Kevin Prince Boateng, a decision forced on him through injury, with Bernard Yao Kumordzi. Kumordzi was probably one of the better players on the day though the impression created was of a player who has so much more to give but is unable to summon it all for one occasion.
Midway through the second half, Appiah switched to a 4-4-2 system with Prince Tagoe and Asamoah Gyan leading the attack. This did not work. Matthew Amoah is probably a better partner to Gyan in that system than Tagoe. Appiah also brought in Ashgold FC’s Emmanuel Clottey for the last 10 minutes of the match. Clottey was confident, lively and direct.
But for the amount of time one spends scrutinizing a coach’s decisions, sometimes it is down to the decision making of the players. One incident stands out in this regard. Asamoah Gyan’s 80th minute sending off made the task of scoring even more difficult and reduced the stars to hopeful heaves into the box and long range shots. Gyan made two bad decisions in the moments preceding the red card. He tried to force the Sudanese keeper to his feet after he perceived time wasting tactics. He then struck out at a Sudanese player who took offense at Gyan’s initial action and who shoved him away. So, the final moments were played without the player most likely to score and worse he will be missing for at least our next match against Congo.
Then again, if the activity in the bars and entertainment spots around the stadium two hours after the match ended is anything to go by, then the show must go on. And it will for the Black Stars. As we head into the subsequent qualifiers, the performance by Kwadwo Asamoah should be noted. He was clearly the man of the match. He played with energy, strength, pace and with his usual ball skills. But for his crosses from corner kicks, his impact would have been even greater. Hans Sarpei and Anthony Annan gave their usual understated and effective displays. Reintroduce Michael Essien and Kevin Prince Boateng into the set up and the draw against Sudan may be a footnote in Ghana’s march to CAN 2012. And by next March against Congo the debate over who should coach the team should be long resolved.