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14.09.2004 Sports News

Hand Desaily Stars Job

By Chronicle
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If he wants it

It's been a turbulent one-week for Ghana football.

First there was Barreto's abrupt departure and then the Caf Confederations Cup games which left the red boys from Kumasi thoroughly beaten whiles the rainbow boys enhanced their African pedigree further with a well-deserved draw in Cameroon.

The Barreto subject is close to my chest because of its significance but in journalism, they say the freshest happenings are priorities, which mean the Confederations Cup game will have to appear in the opening paragraphs of this column.

Kotoko fans must be red-faced after their collapse in Omdurman against El-Hilal. I travelled with the Porcupine Warriors en-route to Cameroon for Hearts of Oak's match and they seemed to be in really high spirits.

It makes little sense to comment extensively on a game you didn't see but from the Hilal I saw who struggled to beat Liberty by a last minute goal at the same venue, Kotoko's result was surprising.

Hearts of Oak's wasn't. The Phobians for whom Jones Attuquayefio was back on the bench in his first major match since returning to the side put up a masterful defensive display to earn a point and retain their position in group B as group leaders on four points.

For ninety minutes, Hearts repelled everything that was thrown at them by a rampaging Cottonsport Garou and when they broke on one of their many counter-attacks it was with some remarkable effectiveness.

From the first minute, it was clear everyone at the Stade Omnisport in the Northern Cameroon town of Garou was in for a huge match.

Hearts were the first to have a clear sight of goal when Louis Agyeman went by four Garou defenders before feeding Emmanuel Osei Kufuor. The man whose goal fetched Hearts the African champions league title four years ago hit a good shot but Garou goalkeeper Marturin Kameni stretched full length to tip the ball out.

Barely a minute later, it was the turn of Hearts goalkeeper Eben Dida to produce his own heroics. The homesters went pouring forward and when the cross came in from Aloma Gaspad met it well only for Dida to pull up a stunning reflex save.

It was a clear statement of how the pattern of the game was going to be afterwards.

Dida had to produce more saves, Hearts had their moments too but there were also several times when Phobians hearts were in their mouths as a result of Dida's poor handling of aerial balls.

One man who put barely put a foot wrong through was Dan Coleman. The national player was a commanding presence at the back for Hearts and emerged supreme in almost every challenge he dared engage in.

The draw was a major satisfaction for the team but one man was the most elated. Jones Attuquayefio had said before the match that his target was to get away from Garou with at least a point and he got that.

Now the mission, according to him is to build on the one point and ensure that by the time the group stage of this new competition comes to an end, it will be Hearts who will be contesting the final.

There is however the possibility that Jones will not be around at Hearts at that time. his name has come as a possible replacement for the Black Stars job which was so cruelly departed by Mariano Barreto last week.

Is he or is he not interested? My gut feeling tells me that he will be but the man who guided Benin to their first Nations Cup appearance in 2004 is has kept mute over the subject.

He will only say whilst we were in Garou that Ghana must be extremely careful in the handling of the Barreto issue lest it gets out of hand and blows the country's world cup hopes into pieces.

Jones is particularly worried about the impact of Barreto's departure on the players. He says when he watches the Black Stars play and see how players run to Barreto after every goal and how Sammy Kufuor will run to the Portuguese first thing after a match, it convinces him that Barreto struck a very good relationship with the players. The challenge now according to Jones is to convince them that Barreto's absence should not affect their loyalty to the nation.

My biggest worry is that the absence of the Portuguese does not wreck Ghana's world cup hopes. Congo DR are due in town on October 10 and the earlier a replacement is found for Barreto, the better.

I am already hearing that replacement could be Marcel Desailly, the Ghana born former captain of the French national team.

There are some who will say straight away that Desaily has no experience in coaching and that he knows very little about the Ghanaian system.

For any such person, look at Ruud Gullit, look at Gianluca Vialli, look at Didier Deschamps and look at Rudi Voeller. They came straight out of football and have not been flops in management.

Desaily has already said he will love to coach Ghana one day. If he is prepared to do it now, let's hand him the reigns. It will not guarantee success but we would have installed a man who is so accomplished and who will bring dignity, respect and a sense of urgency to the Black Stars.

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