Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ghana qualifies for South Africa 2010 - the tasks ahead

Last weekend, Ghana became the first African country to qualify for the World Cup other than the host country, South Africa. It's always nice to set the pace and finish the job with two games to spare. We made our first mundial (Germany 2006) and came away as the best placed African country and doing better than many people thought we would. In fact, at one point during the World Cup, Ghana was the most searched item on Google. If Twitter was as big as it is now, Ghana would be a trending topic too. We'll love to be trendy, but we should want to be winners. We won't sneak up on anyone next time and there's no reason we can't go all the way. We just need to do our homework, prepare adequately and give it our best. Go, Ghana, go!

Some critics would say we had an easy qualifying group. We earned whatever favors we got by being one of Africa's 5 best teams. We executed the job well, with four games played, we won all our games and didn't concede any goals. Mali has some world-class players, it's not easy to play in Sudan and Benin would tell you there are no minnows in soccer these days. Africa is too passionate about the sport to expect to walk into someone's home and emerge triumphant. We had some scares in the first round of qualifying, we barely won our group which featured Gabon, Lesotho, and Libya. Our strikers found their scoring boots and or defence was unforgiving. Now that's the hallmark of a great team. Midfields are absolutely key in today's game and it can be argued that we have the best midfield in Africa.

I didn't watch any of Ghana's qualifying games which is sad since I am normally on top of these things. I did get to see our friendly yesterday against Japan where we performed the biggest Black Star choke job, conceding 4 goals in 45 minutes to lose to Japan, a team we had dominated in the first half. I was concerned with our team, we have some stalwarts like Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari, but to be a world-class team, we need world-class players. If our strikers have bad first touches, we can't expect too many goals. If our players can't tackle cleanly, we will be in danger too many times. African teams in general need better discipline, if there's one thing these 'foreign' coaches have added to our game, it's the team discipline and you can argue the same for better tactics.

Our winning eleven can get better but I feel this is the best formation we have as at now - 4:4:2. Richard Kingston in goal; John Paintsil & Harrison Afful as right & left-back, Eric Addo & John Mensah in the heart of defence; Kwadwo Asamoah & Sulley Muntari on the wings, Anthony Annan holding with Michael Essien ahead of him; then we have Asamoah Gyan and Matthew Amoah in attack. The debate of playing 4:5:1 or 4:4:2 in Ghanaian circles is a recent one, 4:4:2 is what we've done for a long time and it still works. Especially when we don't have any standout strikers, with stalwart eye-for-goal midfielders and a possession game. Gyan and Amoah drop deep to play some football, so it's okay to start them both. Even if we miraculously get Super Mario Balotelli (Barwuah), we should stick to this formation. We are watching you Milo. Nestle our ambitions with better tactics, selections and substitutions. :-)

In goal, Richard Kingston is very reliable. Olele is a gem and he's not losing his agility with age. After him, there's a drop-off. William Amamoo showed he was not ready for the big stage. George Owu is #2, and I hope we get Adam Kwarasey to join us too. In defence, John Paintsil may disappoint every now and then but I think he's our best option. His playing at Fulham game-in game-out is no fluke. I don't know Emmanuel Boakye is faring and we all hoped Real Madrid's Daniel Opare would be ready by now, but he's not. Our biggest problem is at left-back which Harrison Afful is staking claim too. Maybe Kevin Boateng can bring his brother Jerome along from Germany and solve that for us? There are no obvious folks there, someone help me out. Isaac Vorsah got a chance to play in defence against Japan, and from what I saw, he disappointed. He committed too many fouls, that's suicidal on the big stage. I like Francis Dickoh better and that Jonathan Quartey kid too will do. Eric Addo may be old and slow but he's a very smart player. The Rock of Gibraltar's pace can suffice for Eric's flaws. John Mensah is our rock, and he has to stay fit for our sake.

Don't we just love our midfield! Anthony Annan should get a better club, he's fantastic! He has many nicknames but can we call him Makelele? Pokinho must start for the Stars. We are not sacrifing attack to play him but we are strengthening our defence. Unless you are Brazil, defence does win championships in football too. Stephen Appiah must find a club. At this rate, we can't afford to play him more than 15 minutes in any of our games unless he does and is fit as a fiddle. I say we take him to South Africa for his leadership abilities to inspire the boys. Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari & Kwadwo Asamoah should complete our midfield. Quincy Owusu Abeyie would have been awesome for us, and he still has time to make the squad. Dede Ayew hasn't improved so he may lose out. I hope Kevin Boateng shines at Portsmouth to make our squad, as well as Moussa Narry. Haminu Dramani, Derek Boateng, Opoku Agyemang, should be counted as well.

I'll keep on praying that we get Mario Balotelli (Muntari, do something). I saw Mario when he came to Palo Alto but I didn't speak Italian. I mean, he doesn't speak Twi, does he? Otherwise, we have Asamoah Gyan & Matthew Amoah to rely on, with Prince Tagoe waiting. We should definitely take Ransford Osei with us, I am pretty sure if we need to call on him, he can deliver. BabyJet has to take shooting lessons, Klinsmann Amoah has to work on his touch and Prince Tagoe needs to develop a go-to move other than the bicycle kick.

Osee, osee, Black Stars ei, forward ever! We are going for gold. Let's sharpen our tools and success shall follow us. Tsooboi!
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