South Africa was the land of hope where most Ghanaians believed their darling team will excel. Over 3 decades of under achievement was to be banished in 2013. Listening to the amiable President John Mahama, he charged the Black stars to win and officially pledge support for the team.
The black stars were prepared at Abu Dhabi with quality friendly matches organized for the team. Alas! The wait is still on as the stars failed to shine at the second attempt in two years. They left the shores of Accra with a lot hope but returned empty handed. After watching the first 2 matches of the team at the AFCON 2013, my doubts were solid and factual analysis showed me this team is short of been African champion. In answering the popular question on the street of Accra, Tamale and Kumasi which is “WHAT WENT WRONG?”, I have identified this 5 core factors that must be worked on in order for the Black stars to excel;
Point 1: Pride and Overconfidence
All through the build up and till the elimination of the black stars, I watch with amazement the manner in which reporters, officials and players were so confident of winning the cup. Confidence is good, but excess of it spoils hard work. Even, Spain was not exhibiting the level of disrespect for opponents the way the reporters (Ebwo Appiah and Oyedeji precisely) were doing.
Ghana was only scared of Ivory Coast and sees other participants as beatable. On a good day, Ghana can beat any team in Africa. However, careful look into the team should point to lack of depth as the team is missing quality and leaders which is important for a tournament like this. I heard Mr. Oyedeji saying Nigeria should beat Ivory Coast so Ghana can beat Nigeria and win the cup.
Anybody who understands tournaments will agree that you can only talk of your chances after 2 games. AFCON diaries (on Joy Sports) showed the manner in which the team were conducting themselves. It suggests that the Black stars are busy recreating and having fun with music instead of focusing on the job at hand.
Like the popular Biblical adage, Pride goeth before a fall. The team was very casual against Mali and was lucky for the cancelled equalizer against Niger. The match against Cape Verde was pathetic as the keeper was the man of the match. The work rate and dedication was missing as the Burkina Faso team ripped the entire team apart. The body language of the team seems like the cup is there for the taking and probably the referee at the semi final showcased that.
Pride is killing and Pride surely contributed to the failure of the black stars
Point 2: Lack of Talent
Ghana must own up to this fact, the squad to AFCON 2013 lacked the required talent and does not represent the best the country can produce. The purpose of 23 players is to have 2 players for each wing and 3 goalkeepers. It is imperative to note that the Ghana team could not boast of 14 quality players who are functioning in top leagues across the globe. Derek Boateng, Adoma, Solomon Asante, John Boye and Vorsah are average players that does not cut it at the highest level. Asamoah Gyan and John Paintsil have passed their prime and it is obvious in their contribution to the team. Harrison Afful, Christian Atsu and Wakaso Mubarak are young talents and require time to flourish.
Come to think of it, to see Ghana go to the nations cup without players like Michael Essien, Muntary, Prince Boateng, and the Ayew brothers underline the quality of talent that were neglected at the nations cup. It is a fact that Ghana currently lacks quality in almost every department of the team. The quality in the Globacom Premier league is not also helping matters as the production line has stopped functioning or producing super stars from the league. This is evident in the performance of Ghanaian clubs performance (except Berekum Chelsea last season) in recent times. The substitutions and the panic which some injuries caused in the Black stars team also underline the absence of talent.
Point 3: Tactical Bankruptcy
It is with immense joy to know that Nigeria won AFCON with an African coach at the helm of affairs. It can be stated that Kwesi Appiah is in the same league with Stephen Keshi in terms of national team experience. One thing is certain, Black coaches understand the psyche of the team and the cultural background that can keep the team in high spirit.
But tactically, the Ghanaian bench usually falters when they ought not to throughout the tournament. For example, the decision to leave the Ayew brothers out of the team is tactically suicidal. The coach seems not to have a definite plan and approach in which the team is expected to prosecute matches. Modern coaches have Plan A, B, C while some even have plan D in case that is needed.
The first match when Ghana was leading and comfortable with the three points. Tactically, the coach should have instructed the team to choke the middle as the Congo DR team plays the ball better in the middle. The second match was drab as Ghana did not exploit the weakness of the Malians which is pace. Niger was easier but the problem was obvious with some scares in the second half.
Personally, what I discover in the team is that coach Appiah did not build the team round Kwadwo Asamoah. He has the pass, tricky and can shoot. Why can’t you just design the team to allow him space like Messi at Barcelona instead making him to be defensive almost through the entire tournament. Badu is a good player with an eye for goal, but he will always leave the midfield short when he goes forward leaving Rabiu (most times) with the challenge of marking 2 attacking midfielders. The case was more obvious with Kabore in the Semi final as his intelligent run and experience ensured constant space that killed the Black stars midfield. All through the 120 minutes, tactical remedy could not be found. Wakaso who is the best penalty taker removed underlining lack of hindsight tactically from the bench. All these point to a lot of tactical flaws that were punished at AFCON.
Point 4: Poor Management
Management is one of the most important skills required at the topmost level of international football. You will remember Balotelli at Manchester city and another complexion for Italy at the Euros. Eric Cantona, Diego Maradona, Jay Jay Okocha, Abedi Ayew Pele, Ronaldihno, Tevez, Edmundo, Taarabt, Cantona, Romario and others have proved that exceptional talents have come with their carnage of bad behaviours.
However, various managers have shown how to effectively manage these talents to the extent of achieving great goals. Ghana has poor management across board which was obvious in the indiscipline around the team all these while. Dressing and hairstyle have shown Ghana as a very unserious team with poor control from the authorities. Conflict with some players that are left out especially the Ayew brothers is another testimony. Even, occurrences like the Paintsil’s and Ayew brothers temporary retirement has created chaos in terms of football management in Ghana
Management was also viewed in the choice of camping. Abu Dhabi and South Africa to the best of my knowledge are not at par in terms of weather. It seems as an enjoyment trip as the captain seems to put on more weight. Also, benchmarking was not used for the allowance (not limited to Ghana in Africa) as the players are making cheap dollars arguably without sweating.
I think the entire Ghanaian football setup should own up and improve in the way the black stars are managed. The players should respect the jersey and understand they represent the Ghanaian nation. Lest I forget, the Ghanaian camp seems to be so comfortable that recordings and visits were conducted in the camp during the tournament. This is grossly disappointing as you do not babysit at war. There are rumours of parties, clubbing, womanizing and other act of indiscipline that points to ineptitude in terms of management.
Point 5: Lack of Tournament Mentality
The last aspect for me is that the team lacked tournament mentality. Strategic planning coupled with diligent implementation is key to success. Tournaments are short (1 month at most) and require detail focus and psychological readiness to be able to achieve the goals. The black stars team seems to have this lackadaisical approach to games. Sometimes, I feel they have been promised the cup before the tournament began.
How do you explain a world cup quarter finalist been overwhelmed by Cape Verde (no disrespect) and ultimately overwhelmed by Burkina Faso whose goal keeper plies his trade in the Globacom premier league. The team lacked fighting spirit, leadership and sacrifice required at the top stage of international competition. It is very painful that the team was psychologically wanting at important moments of the tournament.
This is a distilled approach to analyzing the Black stars at AFCON.
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