Ghana crowned their qualification the to the 2022 AFCON tournament in Cameroon with an impressive 3-1 win against Sao Tome on Sunday at the Accra Sports Stadium.
In a game which many were expecting the Black Stars to win, they lived up to expectations and dominated a lacklustre side that failed to create meaningful chances in the game.
The Black Stars will be looking to make a better impression in the next edition of the tournament under new Head Coach C.K Akonnor after their poor showing in the 2019 edition.
So, what did we learn from the final round of qualifiers?
Here are five takeaways.
State of the pitch at the Accra Sports Stadium.
The stadium was renovated in 2018 ahead of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations but it seems there has been too much pressure on the facility in recent times as the state of the pitch currently is nothing to write home about.
Currently about 5 Ghana Premier league teams use the Accra Sports Stadium as their home ground, while friendly matches or matches by the national teams are almost always played there.
My question is, why are the other stadia like the Tamale Stadium, the Cape Coast Stadium among others not frequently used for some of these games. Spreading out the games will ensure that these grounds are given the proper maintenance they deserve instead of being left without activity for a year to deteriorate.
The grass appears to be losing its vibrant green color as well and the dry and bumpy state of the pitch makes it difficult for players to string good passes and control the ball.
The quality of a pitch can be the difference between a bad and stellar performance from a player on any given day.
Let’s not even go into how the pitch becomes soggy after a short downpour, something needs to be done to improve and maintain the state of our football pitches in the country.
Some users of social media also questioned the state of the pitch during the game against Sao Tome.
Which colour is the pitch Accra sports stadium?
— Hunter Johnson Global 🏹 (@myjenz) March 28, 2021
The pitch at the Accra Sports Stadium!!! Smh 🤦♂️
— Ohene-Bampoe Brenya (@obbampoegh) March 28, 2021
Mohammed Kudus is the future of Black Stars
It is no surprise that youngster Mohammed Kudus has been receiving a lot of praise for his performances in the AFCON qualifiers against South Africa and Sao Tome and Principe.
Hampered by injuries at the end of last year and the beginning of the year, the 20-year old Ajax midfielder was unable to feature for the Black Stars during their friendlies against Morocco and Qatar as well as the AFCON qualifiers against Sudan.
However, following his impressive performances in the games against South Africa and Sao Tome, it is not far fetched to say Kudus will be a crucial and key member of the Black Stars team going forward.
His two assists to Nicholas Opoku and Baba Rahman helped Ghana secure all three points against Sao Tome while his goal in the game against South Africa ensured the Black Stars booked a spot in the 2022 AFCON tournament.
Kudus’ understanding of the game, ability to control the ball and his physical strength among other qualities speak for themselves and shows why his name will be in the mouths of Ghanaians for years to come if he is able to stay fit.
Baba Rahman needs to improve
The 26-year old has received so much criticism in the past week as many described his performance against South Africa as poor.
He appears to have lost the qualities that made him a favorite with Ghanaian fans a few years back. His ability to bomb down the flank to join attacks and make a quick recovery on defense has waned while his trademark crosses from deep have also become a distant memory.
Despite scoring Ghana’s third goal against Sao Tome, Rahman still has a lot to work on as he was fond of giving the ball away a couple of times to the opponent.
C.K Akonnor in his post match after the Sao Tome game came to defence of the PAOK defender and asked for Ghanaians to be patient with Rahman following his long spell of inactivity.
It might be hard to accept that he perhaps will never recover his elite fullback game again but even in his limited capacity he has attributes that make him a very serviceable player for the national team especially in a position that has proven problematic for the Black Stars since he suffered his ACL injury.
Rahman is on loan at Greek side PAOK on loan from Chelsea and has featured five times for the club, he will certainly improve once he is able to get enough playing time, though he will need more time to fit into the Black Stars squad once again.
Akonnor’s trust in local players
Razak Abalora, Ismail Ganiyu, Kwame Opoku, Imoro Ibrahim, Justice Blay and Gladson Awako all got their moments to shine in the AFCON qualifiers as Akonnor called up 12 local players for the last two games of the series.
And they certainly impressed as Akonnor and captain Dede Ayew heaped praise on them for their important contribution to the side after the Sao Tome game.
If you were at the stadium on Sunday, you would have felt the excitement when Gladson Awako and Justice Blay were introduced into the game. It goes to show how these players are valued by fans of their various clubs.
We certainly hope and believe this won’t be the last time we see the local players feature for the Black Stars.
Akonnor must find a way of infusing some of them into the national team set up and not wait to do so because of global pandemic.
Razak Abalora must be consistent
Abalora needs to be more consistent in his performances if wants to be a constant in the Black Stars team.
The Kotoko goalkeeper has been handed a string of opportunities since CK Akonnor took over and one of those came after Ghana’s first choice, Richard Ofori withdrew from the squad due to an injury.
His error in the Sao Tome game gave the visitors a needless goal that could have been completely avoided.
Despite coming up with some clutch saves against South Africa to help Ghana qualify, he must be careful to avoid making such errors in future.
Former Ghana Goalkeeper, Abukari Damba believes Abalora can come in to replace Richard Ofori in future should he be unavailable following his impressive display against South Africa.