How far can the Black Stars go in Angola


Ghana go into her final Group B clash against Burkina Faso on Tuesday with mixed feelings; Essien out, Annan in.
Yet a dark cloud hangs ominously in the air with the threat of a first round exit from the ongoing Nations Cup tourney looking more and more palpable.

Ghana’s opponents only need a draw to sail through and with the recent goal scoring drought that has engulfed the team, one can only imagine what is going through the mind of Coach Milovan Rajevac.

I have no doubt in my mind that Ghana will meet Angola in the quarter finals but that does not in any way absolve coach Milovan of blame for what I call a national disaster in Ghana’s 3-1 defeat to Ivory Coast.

His insistence on taking along young U-20 players only to admit that inexperience caused us defeat against Ivory Coast was to say the least an insult to Ghanaians. But I will touch on that, much later.

The case of Sulley Muntari cannot be swept under the carpet. I hear he is not disciplined. Many stories have been told about how he failed to attend a meeting scheduled by Milovan. Some even claim he did not apologise for going AWOL on the Black Stars. If all these hearsays are true I say that is highly unfortunate.

My learned friend, a colleague and reputable sports journalist Christopher Opoku has not minced words with how Sulley in his words has been tactically not disciplined. (He cuts into the middle when he ought to be on the flanks and whip in the crosses, just to paraphrase his opinion) Even though I differ in opinion on Muntari’s contribution to the Black Stars the final decision lies with Milovan.

In this case he axed Muntari out of the team and could be justified only as far as the desired results are achieved.

I hear of instances where Eric Cantona and Ginola have all been left from the France National team citing indiscipline, but I also do know that the French were highly successful even without them.

Now would Ghanaians rather have a supposed indiscipline player who will give his heart out and play more than 100 per cent to help the nation win games, and that is what Sulley has done in most cases, or rather have a coach satisfy his quest for discipline and lose important games?

The talk I hear most and which has become the parlance is ‘punish him and use that as a deterrent to others’. Well fine. Those same arguments were made of Abedi Pele and Anthony Yeboah’s reign. Once it is a human institution, I dare say issues about indiscipline will always crop up.

I have played football somewhat and I know that there are certain players who when I see in my team, irrespective of how indisciplined they are off the pitch, victory is half won.

The presence of certain players adds morale, confidence to the whole team and that is priceless.

Richard Kingston under normal circumstances should not have conceded those lousy goals he did against the Ivorians. His confidence was all but gone. He could not even muster the courage to issue the usual shouts to his rear guard. And Michael Essien too. I had rather not talk about that.

Back to the U-20 selection issue.

Ghana has walked this path before and I dare say we don’t learn from our lessons. In 2002 a wholesale transfer of the silver winning national U-20 side in Argentina were promoted into the Black Stars and their first major assignment was the Nations Cup in Mali. Was that a disaster? I leave that to your own judgement. Interestingly those players now form the fulcrum of the current Black Stars team.

I make this critique fully aware the constraints Milovan has had to go through in the face of injuries to key players of the Black Stars.

But did he not have other alternative, if you like more experienced replacements? I hold on to this opinion no matter what happens in this tournament.

But I ask, what criteria informed the selection of these young players?

The inexperience shown by the team against Ivory Coast was all too glaring coach Milovan could not but openly confess.

For good reasons, I will not mention names of players I think could have been selected for Angola but I don’t think these are our best players in the country at the moment.

I feel we have as a country by our actions deliberately denied ourselves the opportunity to win the nations cup for the fifth time.

I still think Ghana could progress to the next stage of the competition though, if only Milo gets his tactics and changes right.

I will not subscribe to a 4-5-1 nor a 4-3-3 formation. That is alien to the Ghanaian team. More so, we do not have the personnel to execute such a formation. On occasions that we won games using those two formations (victories against Sudan, Mali in the qualifiers easily come to mind) our goals have come only as a matter of mistakes by our opponents.

I expect we go all out with our traditional 4-4-2 formation with experience (Asamoah Gyan and Mathew Amoah) in attack. Annan brings lots of depth into midfield and if Opoku Agyemang will crown his runs with crosses hopefully Ghanaians will be smiling on Tuesday.

By Nathan Gadugah/Ghana