“I know the solution to the Black Stars' problem. The GFA should exchange the World cup slot of the Black Stars with oil from Nigeria, so that each player will be on a fat salary for a whole a year. They have done enough by qualifying” was what a colleague whined when the Black Stars lost to the Mexican national team by a goal to nil. But please, should it get to that? I thought the Stars' performance did not make as black of a day as what they sold out to Ghanaians when they played the Zimbabweans. That notwithstanding, you will agree with me that the Stars' output could not pass for a B.
After the team's abysmal performance at the nation's cup in Egypt 2006 Ghanaians were, of course, expecting a good performance from the Stars to reassure them that there is still hope for the team, especially when many excuses were given for the team's early exit, which I thought were untenable, though. Obviously, the avid follower of soccer, and in fact, soccer pundits will admit that for a game of that nature a good performance even without goals would have restored the hope that each Ghanaian want (ed) to have in the team. However, that cannot be said of what I saw in the game. Considering that the Mexicans are ranked sixth in the world any objective observer would give the Stars little chance to beat their opponents but I wonder(ed) if anyone still held that view judging from the output from the Mexicans, themselves. Considering how laid back the Mexicans were in this game we should have seized the initiative and won.
Without sounding like holding brief for the coach, I would emphasize that most of the players played as if there was nothing at stake. I wondered if that is the disposition of any team in approaching a friendly encounter. I think one should be fair to players such as Elvis Hammond and Patrick Agyeman, and take cognizance that it was a friendly as a result of which any manager might want to fine tune his players and map out a good strategy, but if passing the ball into your goal area even when there was a glaring chance to move into an opponent's goal area is what can be described as fine tuning then there is an issue here.
The Stars were sloppy on the ball, and played as if they had too much respect for the Mexicans. There was a lot of space in the game that they could make use of but all such opportunity was given to the Mexicans to create room and annoyingly draw rings around our players.
Football has seen a lot of improvement and transformation since the days of the Brazilian Pele and the Argentine Maradona and whoever thinks that holding on to the ball for years will do anything for a team should revise his notes.
Otto Addo was good but he was becoming a liability more than an asset at certain points of the game as he kept on holding unto the ball for too long. Of course, there were too many touches from players and little crosses into the vital area of the Mexicans. The team relied on too many short passes that made it easier for the opponent to read the attack. Most of the players didn't seem mature enough to foresee when to use the left or right flank. I mean they were single-minded with their heads always looking at the ball. The forwards lacked zeal and didn't use crosses at all. I thought for once the Ghanaians had an advantage with their height and, thus, could make good use. With their height advantage one would think they should be crossing and using the flanks but that was far from the situation.
The Mexicans were surprisingly out-jumping the Ghanaians. And, oh my gosh! our defense; it was questionable. How could players hold on to the ball for too long when there was imminent danger?
Interestingly, I doubt if the “no full strength” argument will take center stage this time considering that the Mexicans themselves were depleted, yet dominated the game comfortably. Our darling boys Essien and Muntari featured (though Appiah was not in the team) but did it change anything about the team? Shouldn't it be enough to send signals to some people that individual brilliance without cohesion or telepathy [in a team] will yield fruitless results?
More so, why did the coach take out a striker for a playmaker, and not Amando for Razak, and then a striker for Agyeman? And when did Osei Kufour start taking free kicks for the Black Stars in such friendly matches? What were Muntari, Essien, and Hammond etc. who might possibly take free kicks, in future, in competitive matches, doing?
I admire Kufuor's commitment level but not in that area. The boys played as if they were scared to shoot. However, if there was anyone who made a statement, then, it was Baba Amando. He proved why he should have been included in the team even during our qualifiers and I wondered why the coach kept him on the bench and started Razak who hadn't played since the Meteors qualifying in 2003/04.
Yes, the Stars scored a good goal and the referee disallowed it. But could the goal have changed anything? Surely, the referees couldn't have been responsible for our losses to Togo, Tunisia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Besides, even if the goal had been allowed, it would still have been a disappointing performance. Mine is not to discuss whether the coach should go or stay. I believe I have indicated that there is still a good amount of time for us to go back to the drawing board and pick up the pieces but I wonder how good we can put the time to use considering that other teams already know who and who will not represent them at the mundial. I would reiterate that our performance is below par and we should address them. The current Black Stars' team has no pattern of play and surely the World Cup is not for any such display.
Personally, I don't think all is lost but the coming days will be crucial to determining our fortunes at the world cup. Should we continue this way, I would agree with my friend that we should give our slot to another team to avoid imminent disgrace.