I have been meaning to write a post on the Black Stars last match, the friendly against the Dutch since Sunday morning. While I dawdled, others beat me to it. Time and again.
The special one has even gone so far as to write off the team’s chances at the World Cup.
Predictions are a risky business in normal times. They are even riskier when talking about a team whose starting XI in the first match against the US we are unsure of.
People conveniently forget that prior to the last Mundial, then coach Milovan Rajevac was called all manner of names for daring to lose a friendly match prior to the competition. He maintained that he knew what he was doing and the team would peak at the right time.
Some of us incurable optimists can only hope that we will peak at the right time in Brazil.
Nevertheless, even optimists have moments of clarity and the evidence of last weekend’s friendly raises some questions. It was an abnormal match. The Dutch clearly started with a strong line up while Ghana’s was a mish mash of potential starters and players on the fringe. Therefore, an assessment of the match comes with many qualifications. A prediction based on it can come off as unserious. Still, one might pose questions.
Two years into his reign, Kwesi Appiah has neither found a reliable pair of hands nor a defensive system that adequately protects our keepers.
Adam Kwarasey could have let in three goals by half time and it wouldn’t have been his fault. Yet, we would likely have blamed him and called for Fatau Dauda or Stephen Adams. By the end of the match, with the score a respectable 1-0 and Kwarasey having made some alert saves, he seemed to be in the lead for the position. Goalkeepers need repetitions to build confidence. Hopefully by the next friendly against South Korea, Appiah would have made a firm decision on his starting goalkeeper and will stick with him.
Another problem area that every keen follower of the team can see is in central defence. In South Africa four years ago, the Black Stars were a solid defensive unit, less likely to concede than not. Rajevac’s philosophy seemed to be he would prefer not to concede than to score. He obviously took the lessons from the friendlies and qualification matches and relied on the 5-4-1 system to shore up his defence. Appiah’s much more open 4-4-2 system may create a few more chances per game and may create more opportunities on average but will an open system suffice at a World Cup where goals always come at a premium?
There are bright spots though and possible solutions to our problems. First, Afriyie Acquah looks like the real deal. He impressed in his short time on the pitch. He is where Michael Essien was at his peak. A player with boundless energy and a dynamism that sees him go from box to box, Acquah covers a lot of ground and helps protect the back four. After a stellar season in Italy, he is clearly primed to take the World by stage. If Appiah will let him.
I have heard many complain about Kwadwo Asamoah’s form for Ghana. I still think he can be one of Ghana’s best players. However, I don’t know that Appiah has defined a role for him that allows him to flourish. He has found himself on the bench, at left back, as a left winger and in the middle of the pitch during Appiah’s reign. At Juventus, he is largely confined to the left forward position constantly tracking back to help in defence. Where does Appiah want him to play?
Looking back now on reports on the friendlies prior to the the last World Cup, it is uncanny how quickly our collective doubts can give way to relief and pure ecstasy. Eight days to the start of the tournament, one can only hope that our reflexive pessimism will be washed away come June 14.