(A GNA review by Veronica Commey)
Accra, August 19,GNA - Ghana's Black Meteors on Wednesday took what many has termed as a surprise bow out of the soccer segment of the Athens Olympic Games, succumbing 0-1 to Group B "whipping Boys", Japan. Many have attributed the needless defeat to a host of factors of which tactical bankruptcy ranked high on the list.
Though the team managed a win against Paraguay and a shock draw against Italy after taken a comfortable 2-0 first half lead, the defeat to Japan perhaps further exposed the tactical ineptitude by head coach Professor Mariano Barreto and his men.
It was obvious in all the three games that, the team played without a set pattern and lacked innovation to vary their play when the going got tough. It was also evident that the Meteors lacked midfielders with natural flair such that when the game became crowded in the middle they just could not use the flanks as a second option.
For the perpetual optimists who have propounded theorists to the effect that our national teams are slow starters during such tournament should review that assertion and accept the reality that the face of the game has hugely changed.
Critical and objectives minds will reckon that our team was totally a disjointed side and its only asset was the normal individual brilliance that characterized their play.
Professor Barreto and his men should perhaps tell us why the team failed to play as a unit and as a cohesive side after weeks of pre-tournament training in Portugal where we learnt the boys were simply unbeatable.
Personally, I was dismayed at the confidence of Ghanaian soccer fans when it was obvious in the first game that the Portuguese trainer lacked the vital coach's reaction to games - an asset that have helped distinguished coaches across the globe.
This coaches' reaction to games was vividly exhibited recently during the European championship hosted by Portugal. In one of such games, particularly the Portugal-England encounter, Philip Scolari substitute Louis Figo and Decor for Helda Postiga and Rui Costa respectively at a time the that the host team was down by a lone goal. His substitutes cancelled the goal, which galvanised them to take the lead until Frank Lampard equalised for Enagland. But the hosts qualified for the semis albeit vie a penalty shootout.
This underscores the potentials of a world-class coach whose ability to think and vary the game is crucial.
What we saw of coach Barreto was nothing but a stereotype approach to games, with the same pattern of substitution.
One could always expect Charles Taylor and Kwadjo Poku to be introduced in the second half of the game for Baffour Gyan and another striker.
I noticed that the coach did not bother whether or not Baffour for instance was fit or suitable for a particular match, to him he must start so he could give way in the other half.
We were made to believe that bad officiating from the Argentine referee coupled with fatigue by the Ghanaian players aided the Italians to equalize; so could the same reasons be assign to the last match. From all indications, the Meteors problems were far bigger than what coach Barreto wants us to believe.
It was amazing how the coach could keep players such as Abubakari Yahuzah and John Painstil on the bench in the final match when their services were much needed in midfield to salvage the country's image. The lack of urgency displayed in the second half of the first match was replicated in the final group match. In fact in the Japan match, it was worse. I could simply not fathom that a team like the Meteors could risk underrating the Japanese after watching France pay dearly for a similar mistake during the Euro 2004 tournament, which eventual winners Greece knocked them out.
What perhaps worsened the Meteors precarious situation especially in the last match was the patchy performance by the Asamaoh Gyan's-led attack that could not keep their cool in front of goal.
The team has no excuse for those erratic shooting upfront of goal, more so, when all the arrowheads ply their trades in Europe.
Certainly, goalkeeper George Owu made some breathtaking saves but the goals he conceded against Paraguay and Japan must give every good coach something to worry about.
I am informed that Mohammed Alhassan was at his peak during the mini-tournament in Portugal ahead of the Olympic games, so why did Barreto risk using Owu when we are told he was suffering from a back pain. Owu's, timing was awful; he needs to sit back and reflect on some of his rough edges and make amends for a better future.
Apart from John Mensah whose tackles are refined, the likes of Coleman and Villas are too reggared and stiff and their ability to recover on time and tidy up during sticky situations were heartbreaking. Barreto should be thankful that he has some two weeks to learn from his mistakes before the Black Stars' crucial World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde at the Kumasi Sports Stadium on Sunday, September 5.