Ghana crashed out of the ongoing AFCON on penalties to Tunisia, a team they had never lost to at the AFCON. The Black Stars 37-year drought continues and after managing 1 win and 3 draws in Egypt.
Even before the tournament support was at an all-time low as the Black Stars had failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup.
However, many expected another semi-final finish at the least and maybe another crack at the trophy. This was not meant to be, and the Black Stars are out. However, we have to ask what we have learnt what can we do to improve the national team.
Kwesi Appiah is not proactive or reactive enough.
Kwesi Appiah could be a good coach. He has a good handle on the players at his disposal and was able to use them to their strengths for the most part. However, his inability to react throughout the tournament left us exposed. In addition, unless the need absolutely arose, Appiah took too long to make changes and give his players enough time to make an impact.
Kwabena Owusu came on too late against Cameroon and Tunisia thus was unable to really show us what he could do in both games. In the same games, Appiah waited too long to try and win the game. I understand that tournament football is decided by fine margins and he was wary of the Tunisian threat on the break but there is no reward without risk.
We are no longer an African power. This point is pretty self-explanatory but is still worth stating. It has been 37 years since we last won the trophy. In fact, none of the players in the current squad were even born in 1982, with our oldest player Asamoah Gyan being born in November 1985. If we widen that scope, at least half the population was born post-1982.
Quite frankly, Ghana winning the AFCON now is as tangible as the dwarves in the Kakum forest. We need to abandon the pride and sense of entitlement we have and realize we are not as good as we once were. Lower expectations have helped nations like England and the Netherlands rebuild in peace and come back stronger. Maybe that is the approach we need.
Kwadwo Asamoah was under/misused.
Kwadwo Asamoah has performed consistently for Juventus and, most recently, Internazionale. He is a top-level footballer and, compared to most of his teammates, he is a class above in terms of his performances at club level. Bafflingly, he made one start out of position and after that, he did not make any meaningful contributions to our AFCON campaign.
Reports claimed that Asamoah had demanded to play as a 10 and that if he wasn’t accommodated, he would prefer not to play. Even if that was the case Appiah could have found a compromise and played him there with Andre Ayew on the wing or up front. Considering how much we struggled to win matches it made no sense to alienate one of our best players.
Andre Ayew creates more problems than solutions.
This one may be a bit controversial given he is our captain but bear with me. Andre Ayew’s dedication when he plays cannot be questioned, he gives his all. However, is he being employed in a role that maximizes his effectiveness to the team? I highly doubt that. In the attacking phase, I was very disappointed with Ayew’s output. He slowed down attacks and was reluctant to take his man on or play any forward passes.
However, his defensive work rate was superb. He cut passing lanes, challenged for 50/50s and generally made life difficult for our opponents throughout or campaign. I think in the hole he’s wasted and his reluctance to progress play is a hindrance. Maybe employing him as a target man or a raumdeuter or even as a hard-working hybrid like Mario Mandžukić for Juventus could hide his deficiencies and emphasize his strengths.
Time to say goodbye to the old guard.
There would be no AFCON review without mentioning Asamoah Gyan and John Boye. The two most talked about players in the Ghana camp. John Boye managed to collect three unnecessary bookings in 3 games.
Every time he tried to carry the ball out of defence and was put under the slightest pressure, he would lose the ball and that resulted in his first yellow card against Benin. In addition, he was suspect for the first goal against Benin and misread the Tunisian cross for their opener. He should not be starting for the Black Stars in 2019.
In the case of Asamoah Gyan he was right to retire the first time. He knew there was not much he could do and was past his best. Yet we persisted with him. Gyan has been a loyal servant of the Black Stars for about 15 years if he decides it is enough, we should let him go. He has served his country to the best of his abilities, but his watch has ended.
Ofori and Jordan impressed.
On a concluding and positive note, Jordan Ayew has redeemed himself. Despite a late miss against Tunisia his dribbling and hold up play was excellent throughout the tournament. He was caught offside too many times, but he was our best attacker in just about every match.
He has come a long way since June 2014 when he was lambasted for failing to tee Gyan up against Germany.
Richard Ofori didn’t come into the tournament with the same baggage as Ayew but the Black Stars have struggled to fill the void since Olele Kingson retired. Ofori stepped up in a big way and at 25 the Black Stars are set for the next 10 or so years.