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22.06.2004 Football News

South African jinx broken but what's next?

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(Daniel Kenu, GNA Sports Desk)

Accra, June 21, GNA - When Black Stars trainer, Mariano Barreto assured the nation last Friday of breaking the eight-year old South African jinx in the 2006 World Cup qualifier, many did not take his word seriously.

Besides, pessimists counted any dream of Ghana exorcising itself of the ravaging jinx by spanking the Bafana boys 3-0 as vague. That pessimism may be due to the fact Ghana as a soccer nation has heard of such assurances in the past but they never materialised.

This notwithstanding, Barreto was optimistic, and he expressed this to the GNA Sports on Friday that irrespective of the apparent lost of hope in the Black Stars, the dream would be achieved even with a half goal.

Now that the dream has been achieved what's next?

It's always good to relish such memorable feat more so, when it has tormented one for such a long time. However, the Stars have no time to keep basking in last Sunday's historic victory.

Ghana has barely one-and-half weeks, to prepare for her next crucial game against Uganda, in Kampala on July 4 and all effort must be put in place to enhance the cohesion of the boys.

I have always maintained that, Ghana's threat of qualifying to the World Cup would not be the so-called big football countries but those tagged as minnows. That is why we must attach so such importance to every single match including the Ugandan schedule.

The Ugandan encounters is so crucial because a second slip by the Stars could demoralise the boys and cause a great psychological blow that would call for a supernatural panacea to win back their confidence. All six countries are on three points apiece, and all the contestants are determined to take advantage of their home matches and perhaps force a draw away from home. The current results have just demonstrated that.

Every country in the group have won her home match but Ghana must change that trend to become the first nation in her group to win away from home to boost her chances of qualifying.

This assignment begins with Uganda this July. The Stars must remember that, Kampala will not be an easy terrain and it will only take extremely hard work to achieve that.

Barreto would have to work on his strikers more especially Ibrahim Tanko who appeared a bit sluggish against the South Africans. He must be told to work hard or be replaced by a more aggressive, battle- ready arrowhead.

Another critical look is the physical fitness of the players and their ability to recover quickly after joining the attackers when the need arise.

Soccer officials must also give the coach the free hand to select the players he deem fit for the job and not impose their wishes on him. We should be reminded that such a practice had caused the Black Stars dearly in the past.

The coach said in a post-match interview monitored by the GNA Sports on Sunday that he wants a free hand to do his job. This suggests that the coach is not too happy with the way some players are allegedly imposed on him. The early this anomaly is checked the better it will be for Ghana football.

The Black Stars have just rediscovered their winning streak and there must be no turning back; keep hope alive. 21 June 04

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