The screams were enough to awaken me. As I descended the staircase, I witnessed a large number of people wailing, running, hands on their heads. I wondered. What is happening? Was someone dead? Was it the end of the world? It couldn’t be; I would have gone straight to hell for I had repented not. And then it occurred to me. It was the 6th of December 2013; the day for the draw of the FIFA World Cup 2014! I had missed the draw. Which group was my beloved country Ghana placed in?
Well, the answer to my question explained the frenzy. It is not that bad like the way most people perceive it to be. It is no mission impossible. The Black Stars can make it to the round of 16. Being placed in a group with the second and third best teams in the world certainly will bring fear and doubts and I do understand but looking at it more closely, the Black Stars have a fair chance of going through past the group stages.
Ghana takes on USA on their first match day whereas Portugal battles it out with Germany. The Black Stars should easily bury their first game if they really want to emerge from this group. They then face the German machine before taking on Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe et al. at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha. The Black Stars could hopefully attain at least a point in the match against the Germans. Our strength is their strength as well – the midfield. That is where horns are going to be locked. The winner of the midfield will obviously be the winner of the game. The 2010 World Cup serves as a reference.
It is quite different when the Black Stars face Portugal. Our strength is their weakness, again the midfield. If we win the midfield battle (which we should do), we might go back with the full points if we take our chances. Why? Ronaldo (the player most Ghanaians fear and Portugal’s talisman) is not the ‘Messi’ kind of player who can come back all the way to the midfield to take the ball and drive forward when he is not at the receiving end of the ball upfront. All he needs is space and a counter attack due to his extraordinary speed. Imagine how missing Ronaldo can go when his midfield is broken.
After the match against Sweden in which he scored a hat trick, Zlatan Ibrahimovic said ” He’s obviously a great player but we allowed him way too much space. Nobody is as good as he is on the counter attack. This game once more showed his biggest quality.’ Ghana should not make similar mistakes. Ronaldo is one of two of the best players in the world and has reached his peak. Ghana will surely pay painfully for the slightest mistake committed.
Sir Alex Ferguson also proved to me last season that when you have just two or three strong and aggressive players assigned to Ronaldo you can take him out of the game (the 2nd leg of the UEFA Champions League against Manchester United before the controversial Nani red card bears witness). Tata Martino proved the same point in the just ended 2013/14 season (both El Classico encounters in the Liga BBVA). The Black Stars can possibly learn and follow in the same footsteps of Manchester United and Barça to out Ronaldo. For when he is out of the game, Portugal is surely going nowhere in this campaign.
A point at least in each of the games against Germany and Portugal and a win against USA will definitely put Ghana through to the round of 16. So Ghanaians should have faith and support the team to victory for the Black Stars are the hope of Africa!
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