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14 November 2017 | Sports News

Not All Doom And Gloom In Black Stars' World Cup Failure

KWESE
Not All Doom And Gloom In Black Stars' World Cup Failure

For the first time in 12 years, there will be no World Cup to prepare for, no banking halls decorated with national colours, no television presenters decked in the red, gold and green and no group of fans flying out of Accra to a World Cup venue in large numbers.

After three World Cup appearances, Russia 2018 will feel like Japan/Korea 2002, when Ghanaian football fans were television observers, cheering on the African contingent and wondering just when that long wait for a World Cup place was going to end.

For many Ghanaian football fans too, the hope will be that the period will trigger some deep soul searching and inspire an even better attitude to World Cup qualifiers in 2022.

The truth is that the attitude to the 2018 World Cup was wrong from day one. Tensions between the Ministry of Youth and Sports headed at the time by Nii Lante Vanderpuye, and the Ghana Football Association over winning bonuses and budget created a negative atmosphere, especially with memories of the bonus chaos that marred Ghana's World Cup campaign in Brazil 2014 still fresh in memory.

All those long meetings about money and reduced bonuses took away from the core objective, which was to reach a fourth straight World Cup, something only Cameroon has achieved on the African continent.

Yet blaming Vanderpuye for how bad Ghana's World Cup campaign has gone will be unfair. It wasn't him who missed those chances against Uganda in the first qualifier in Tamale. It wasn't him who decided we had to play that game on a Friday without the needed preparation so the team could head out for a friendly and make a bit of money later.

It wasn't Vanderpuye whose defensive error allowed Thevy Bifouma to score that vital goal for Congo in Kumasi. Neither was it the sports minister who often played at home as if there was nothing at stake. It was the players.

Avram Grant has rightly been criticized for picking up one point from six and setting off the whole campaign to a bad start, with his squad choices that stuck to type and bred a sense of entitlement and complacency.

When he left, his successor Kwesi Appiah did not fare much better, abandoning the players who got his second spell off to a spectacular start against Ethiopia, to endure a miserable draw against Congo.

In those home draws against Congo and Uganda, which effectively killed off Ghana's World Cup dreams, there were a few common factors: players who always arrived for international football safe in the knowledge that they will play but not good enough this term to return Ghana to the biggest stage in world football.

Asamoah Gyan was injured too many times and Andre Ayew can't remember the last good game he played in a Ghana shirt. Players like John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Christian Atsu and Harrison Afful had too many off days. It was as if qualification didn't mean that much to many of them.

That is why, despite the failure to qualify, the recent games provide good indicators about the future. Appiah may not have made game-winning decisions, but he has succeeded in smashing the entitlement culture in the team to bits.

Now Mensah and Boye have to earn their spot with Club Africaine's Nicholas Opoku and Kasim Nuhu of Young Boys providing competition.

In giving the likes of Edwin Gyasi, Thomas Agyepong, Lumor Agbenyenu, Richmond Boakye Yiadom and Ebenezer Ofori consistent runs in the team, Appiah has provided a talent pool that will come in handy for the Black Stars in the next few years.

While that won't make up for the poor decisions during Ghana's qualifying campaign for Russia 2018, it might ensure that when the qualifiers come around again after a long wait, this country will be better prepared for them.

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