The Black Stars face Gabon in a must-win encounter at the AFCON 2021 tournament in Cameroon tonight.
Milovan Rajevac’s side have their backs against the wall after an opening day loss to Morocco and will need a positive result against their opponents tonight.
While they were certainly not outplayed in that game against the North Africans, the Black Stars were not spectacular either.
A massive improvement will be required by the team if the Black Stars are to pick up their first three points of the tournament.
Here are four sure-fire tips for the Black Stars to succeed in the game against Gabon tonight
Play Andre Ayew as your main striker or start him from the bench
Andre Ayew has borne the brunt of criticism, a lot of the time unfairly, for the Black Stars’ poor performances in recent months.
The national team captain was not at his best against Morocco in the first game but not many of the players on the pitch from either side were.
Despite this, Andre was an asset in defence for the Black Stars, particularly aerially on set-pieces, usually making it very difficult for the player he was marking to make clean contact with the ball.
That ability in the air was encapsulated in one moment in the second half, when he outjumped the Moroccan defence to head a long ball back into the danger area.
The two Black Stars forwards in the box with Andre, perhaps not expecting him to win the header did not attack the ball and were rightly berated by their captain.
Andre Ayew is an asset that the team can do with upfront; and his poaching instincts in the box are outstanding.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s our best finisher as well. Play him as the main striker, or keep him on the bench until you need him to influence the gane.
Vary your strategy
It was pretty clear what the message from Milovan Rajevac and his technical team was for Ghana’s game against Morocco: hit it long for the striker to hold up, or flick on for the pacy runners, Kamaldeen Sulemana and Joseph Paintsil.
A few times, this strategy worked, most notably in the lead-up to Joseph Paintsil’s effort, which was brilliantly saved by Moroccan goalie Bounou.
More often than not, however, the ball forward was either poor or the players couldn’t hang on to it.
Despite this, there was barely an attempt to change their play style.
It might be a popular opinion right now but I do not subscribe to the idea that a midfield that includes Thomas Partey, Baba Iddrisu and Mubarak Wakaso can’t pass or control possession.
An unwillingness to explore other strategies or perhaps even train for them cost the Black Stars against Gabon and might do so again against Gabon.
Free Thomas Partey
He might have had a subpar game against Morocco but Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey is indispensable for the Black Stars.
His passing, ball retention and ball progression were not at their usual level and were huge factors in the Black Stars’ failure to properly control the game on Monday.
Partey is great in a double pivot but is outstanding when he is not burdened with more defensive duties, as he was against Morocco.
When given the freedom of the pitch, particularly as a Number 10, the Ghanaian is unplayable. He’s able to influence play on both ends, particularly in attack where his oft-hidden finishing ability frequently shines through.
Don’t delay potentially game-changing subs
One very justified criticism of Milovan Rajevac in the game against Morocco was how late he left his subs.
Despite some players visibly tiring as the game wore on, Rajevac only made changes after his side had conceded; and by then, it was too late for them to make a significant difference.
Late substitutions were a constant criticism of his predecessor CK Akonnor’s time in charge.
The Black Stars head coach, attempted to justify his decision by saying he didn’t want to make unnecessary changes.
”Everything was going well, so there was no need to make unnecessary changes because until the moment we conceded the goal, we had full control of the match,” he said.
But those changes were very necessary and could have changed the course of the game had they come earlier.