Five lessons from Ghana's win over Ethiopia
The Black Stars ran out 5-0 victors over Ethiopia in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Sunday, and KwesÃ©ESPN looks at five take-aways from the drubbing.
1. There is no place like Oseikrom for Black Stars games
The Ghana Football Association decided it was time to take Ghana games back to Kumasi, the venue that served as the 12th man as the Black Stars stunned the likes of Zambia and Egypt en route to the 2014 World Cup. It then became the last place any member of the side wanted to travel to as the city reacted furiously to the money fiasco that marred Ghana's 2014 participation. But on Sunday all that was forgotten.
The stadium was packed and the fans were in good spirits, defying a heavy downpour before the game to create a terrific atmosphere. It helped that the team started well, with two goals inside the first quarter. It is proving to be a true home for local boy and head coach Kwesi Appiah, who enjoyed success there in his previous tenure as coach.
2. We still major in the minors
There is an ongoing conversation about the captain's armband that suggest everyone from the players, fans, and media love to dabble in the trivial. It feeds the columns, provides clicks, and encourages a lot of conversation but actually had little bearing on the game.
Asamoah Gyan went off in the second half, having scored his 50th goal, whilst wearing his arm band (a customised one with his image on it).
West Ham's Andre Ayew picked up a new one from the bench to trigger a wave of conspiracy theories. Given all the fuss and suspicions over tensions between Gyan and Ayew over the Black Stars captaincy, the move was unwise and unnecessary.
But it also shows where priorities lie, if people think this is a conversation worth having, instead of the way the team played, the positive reaction from fans, and a great start by a the coach.
3. The new boys are good
Avram Grant called up Raphael Dwamena and Ebenezer Ofori for the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon at the start of the year, and that seems to have provided Appiah with clues about two players who could go on to become central to Ghana's future.
The pair were two of a few new names in a new-look Ghana side. There was also a new name at left back in Lumor Agbenyenu from 1860 Munich, and also Thomas Agyepong on the left wing. They were terrific. Dwamena scored twice on his full debut, Agyepong set up two, Lumor looks like he will give Baba Rahman some badly-needed competition at left back, and Ofori of VfB Stuttgart looks like he will sit deep in that midfield and spray passes for some time to come.
4. Appiah's bark matches his bite
There has been a running theme through Kwesi Appiah's press conferences since he became Ghana boss: He wants to lay a foundation for a team that will be around for a long time.
But it takes guts to drop big names from a squad, drop others from the match day line up, and throw in four newbies. Often derided for being too soft and lacking the authority to impose himself on a team, the former Ghana captain used his first game back in charge to cast aside some of those beliefs.
In dropping Mubarak Wakasso and Emmanuel Agyeman Badu, Appiah showed a willingness to make unpopular decisions. And it would have been easy to do the usual; start Afriyie Acquah of Torino in the Serie A, Jordan Ayew from Swansea City, or Frank Acheampong from Anderlecht. They, after all, have been regular members of this side and play at a good level.
But he stuck to his beliefs, trusting Dwamena from the lower tier of Swiss football, Ofori from the second tier of German football, and Agbenyenu, another player from the lower division in Germany. It proved a superb gamble.
5. Victory was par for the course
While hailing the outstanding display, it is important to put it in perspective. Ghana are ruthless against teams like Ethiopia, who showed a lack of fight at the Baba Yara Stadium. That is why Kwesi Appiah's side beat Lesotho 7-0 here in 2012, with Jordan Ayew on song that day. So while this was good, it was not necessarily anything new.
Ghana almost always win at home in qualifying games, so in that sense Sunday was business as usual. And while the debutants thrilled, it is tough to judge their long term prospects on one game. So be happy if you are a Ghana fan, but don't overthink the significance of this win.
By Michael Oti Adjei, KwesÃ©ESPN
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