I haven’t blogged in a few days because I needed time away from the lover that breaks my heart seemingly every four years. Make that two years if we count our African Cup profligacy.
I did not want the pages to be filled with laments like ‘Oh Black Stars!!!’, “Why, Black Stars?” or some such statement conveying grief. The game against the US was a game that we should have won with less effort than we expended on Monday evening. Sadly, it was lost in a manner that is for me inexcusable. Players work four years to get to the biggest stage. The least they should get in return is to be adequately prepared to face the World’s best.
On this occasion, they weren’t adequately prepared. Talent in the qualifying rounds in Africa will win many a game. When the conditions are largely the same against inferior talent, the Black Stars have excelled. They can beat an Egypt side 6-1, a feat that was unimaginable at the time.
At the World Cup, generally speaking, the difference in talent is not as great from one match to the next. In any case, on any given day, that talent can be nullified either by uninspired play of the superior team or by heroic feats by the underdogs.
Before the US match, I felt the US would have a better set of talent for this competition and would be even better than four years ago. I bought the hype that the US media machine was selling. Our players were more talented and dare I say much better on the day than the Americans. There is a fine line between winning and losing though and it was clear that the Americans were better prepared tactically. How else does one explain taking two of eight chances and emerging victors versus one out of 21 of the Ghanaians. What the US did not have in talent, they made up for in efficiency.
In the friendly against the Dutch, we went down early to a Robin Van Persie goal. That goal was created on the right side of our defence. That day, we had Rashid Sumaila and Jerry Akaminko in defense. Jeffrey Schlupp slipped just before he could react to the ball and RVP coolly fired the ball in.
In similar circumstances, we went down in this match to a Clint Dempsey goal. Once again, same channel. This time it was Daniel Opare seeing his first action of this preparatory period, ‘at fault’. Opare somehow managed to find himself off the bench and into the starting line up despite not playing in any match including the one against the so-called Dream Team in Accra. That means in 270 minutes of friendly action, our starting right back did not see the field. How then was he supposed to link up effectively in a competitive World Cup match with his colleague defenders?
A well oiled football team can be likened to an orchestra. The conductor rehearses often with his symphony countless hours to be well honed for the big stage. You don’t appear in Royal Albert Hall straight from your music lessons. Even the best orchestras cannot simply add and subtract the best violinist or pianist at the conductor’s whim and expect the output to be excellent at all times.
Four years ago, we had an orchestra. We were never sure of the outcome of the matches then, as now, but we were sure that our team would typically play a certain way. Less style, sure but more results oriented. Plain vanilla and less hazelnut machiato. A drab 1-0 was better than a thrilling cardiac inducing 2-1 loss.
This year, we seem to have a freewheeling Jama session, with our cheerleader in chief seemingly unable to decide from one match to the next where to lay the emphasis. Should we have more drums? More of the gong gong? Actually, where there used to be singing, let’s clap instead. With few cues.
A fair measure of predictability has given way to uncertainty.
That ultimately is to the detriment of the players and invariably produces a discordant sound. And yet the only sounds of such a painful loss is silence. Can Kwesi Appiah raise the volume slightly?
Please. For I would prefer to listen to my increased heartbeat than face the silence.