Whew!!! That was hearts in mouth stuff. After the first thirty minutes of the match, there was likely to be only one winner. The best Ghana could hope for was a draw. The Black Stars’ task was made even more difficult by a sending off of left back Daniel Opare who after virtually doing nothing against Swaziland on Friday was harassed by new Brazilian star Neymar.
Typically, moral victories do not interest me. But boy was this one I grabbed with two hands and hugged tight? In the early stages, Ghana was not overawed. The evident playmaker deficit compared to the Brazilians was made up for with will and courage. And sometimes force.
As the match wore on however, it was clear the Brazilians had a superior skill set that allowed them to control the game with possession. Neymar and Ronaldinho were running at defenders causing them to commit fouls and as a result accrue cards. The accumulation of fouls was referenced by referee Mike Dean as he sent off Opare in the 32nd minute.
That removed any hopes of a fair fight and it seemed only a question of when rather than if a goal would come. It came on the stroke of half time from Damiao. In the second half, the Black Stars were obviously the boxer in a heavyweight fight with one hand forced behind the back. The Brazilians kept punching away but new boy Adam Kwarasey’s ‘any punch you throw I can throw harder’ stance kept the score at 1-0. If he was on holiday against Swaziland, he had his hard hat in place and tools in constant motion in this ‘friendly’. Three dramatic moments characterized his level of activity and aptitude. Two Ronaldinho freekicks were punched around his left post for corner kicks and one Pato header was parried over the bar.
Kwarasey grew in confidence and stature as the match wore on and showed lots of promise. Those saves alone would do that to anyone. Of course, this meant the memory of Richard ‘Olele’ Kingson continues to fade. Twitter was abuzz with all manner of people writing Kingson’s retirement notices. No word on whether he has signed them.
The young keeper was not alone though in the discovery. If victory was going to be difficult we might as well learn about our young players and their ability to play in high profile matches. Learn we did. Jordan Ayew was full of running until he was substituted in the 70th minute. With some more support in the midfield he could well have had a go at the Brazilian defense. We also saw Rabiu Mohammed hold the fort for a whole half and he showed he wasn’t overawed. I thought his touch was brilliant and again in the event Derek Boateng is unavailable he will make for a decent fill in. Mohammed’s teammate at French Ligue 1 side Evian Thonon Gaillard, Jonathan Mensah is a part of the U-20 class that won the World Cup. He had a solid game but must improve his tackling. If Opare was sent off for persistent fouling another referee could have sent Mensah off for a wild challenge. There’s much to like about his game though and if he and Vorsah can form a better understanding they’ll be formidable for years to come. Albert Adomah came on for 12 minutes. I wish I had seen him more to form a fuller impression. I am sure he’ll get some more chances though as he didn’t look clueless.
Even Daniel Opare would have learned something from his 32 minute outing. You have to be more controlled when you’re playing against opposition like Neymar. There are certain areas on the pitch where it is pointless to foul a player. Some of his fouls were needless. You can play hard but it’s more important to play smart.
I won’t be too hard on Opare though as he’s still learning the left back position. Also, I personally think playing Dede Ayew on the wing always helps the left back. Former coach Milovan Rajevac recognized this and Dede’s presence always helped calm the left back. He tracks back and his cleaner tackling is often overlooked.
Kwadwo Asamoah continues to be an enigma against better opposition. For someone who has so much talent, he manages to be inconspicuous when his teammates need him most. He had a very quiet night unlike his lively contribution against Swaziland.
Finally, Stevanovic would have continued to learn about his players yesterday. He would learn about the virtues and limitations of his squad. He will hopefully get ever so close to an identity of how he wants them to play. It is one thing to want to play winning and attractive football but it’s another to come to terms with the personnel you have and figure out whether those two goals will always go hand in hand.