Preview: Holland vs Ghana

HOLLAND v GHANA – Date: May 31, 2014  | Time: 18:30 GMT  | Venue: De Kuip Stadium, Rotterdam

The World Cup is fast approaching and participating nations are making final preparations. Preparations ranging from friendly matches for assessment of the fitness of players to making decisions on who deserves to be on the plane.

The Black Stars of Ghana will tomorrow come face to face with the Orange boys of Holland in a pre-World Cup friendly in Rotterdam, with both teams looking to assess themselves before the tournament kicks off next month.

We bring you a preview of the game, and what insights Louis Van Gaal and Kwesi Appiah will be expecting to gain after 90 minutes of action.

Lady Luck certainly is not Louis Van Gaal’s best friend the moment. As if Kevin Strootman’s absence wasn’t enough for the 62-year old, he now goes into the tournament without the services of Hamburg midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart, who has failed to recover from a calf injury.

During the Netherland’s last friendly against Ecuador, Van Gaal experimented with an interesting 5-3-2 formation. This tactic came as a surprise to many, given the Dutchman’s apparent love for 4-3-3.

All throughout the qualifiers, 4-3-3 was employed by the Dutch to devastating effect, with Kevin Strootman an important element of the formation. His injury seems to be a major reason for this shocking change in philosophy by Van Gaal.

It’s still too early to tell whether Van Gaal will stick to his new tactic or ditch it altogether. One thing that’s certain however, is that his team will set up in the same manner against Ghana, as confirmed by the head coach himself a few days ago.

The 5-3-2 formation provides an interesting dynamic for the defense, with wing-backs coming into play. Van Gaal’s headache may come mainly from the left wing-back position. This looks like a head-on battle between Patick van Aanholt and Terence Kongolo. The latter who made his debut for Oranje against Ecuador didn’t have the best of outings. It is yet to be seen if he’ll make the position his own.

Along with the left back, Van Gaal will perhaps gain some more insight into what his preferred central defense setup will be. The Dutch are short on real quality in this department and the manager will be in a hurry to find his best defensive shape.  

Van Gaal claims to know 20 of his 23-man squad. The game against Ghana could be the last chance for players on the knife-edge to stake their claim for a spot in Brazil. Holland will still play France, Ecuador and Wales before starting their campaign in Brazil against Spain.

Kwesi Appiah, unlike his Dutch counterpart is a man spoilt for choice, with every, if not all his players fit and raring to go. The head coach of the Ghana national team recently admitted he is finding some difficulty in cutting down his squad to the final 23.

He will go into this game to have one final look at a number of players to run the rule over them. The likes of David Accam, Albert Adomah, Rabiu Mohammed (fitness concerns) and Mubarak Wakaso -surprisingly – have divided opinion. Appiah’s eyes will be on them as well a host of other stars.

Appiah could use this match as an opportunity to gain some insight into solving a conundrum which involves the accommodation of Kevin-Prince Boateng and the young Majeed Waris. Waris has grown in leaps and bounds ever since he burst onto the scene last year and was in hot form for club Valenciennes.

Boateng however recently admitted he would prefer a role behind the main striker most likely in a 4-4-1-1 formation. This would automatically push Waris – who has formed a lethal partnership with Gyan– on the bench, with the Al Ain striker a surety in attack.

The midfield is of course Ghana’s powerhouse, with an array of talents at Kwesi Appiah’s disposal. It is yet to be seen what his preferred setup will be at the center of the park. There’s the suspicion that he is yet to fully make up his mind in this regard. The likes of Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien and Emmanuel Agyeman Badu are a few names that will be fighting for s spot in midfield.

And then there is the main concern surrounding the Black Stars team: The goalkeeping dilemma.  Despite Fatau Dauda’s claims he is still number 1, the gloves are very much up for grabs. A strong performance by Adam Kwarasey or Stephen Adams could see them move ahead of the Orlando Pirates goalie in the pecking order.  It can be recalled Richard Kingson ‘stole’ the number 1 spot long held by Sammy Adjei right before the 2006 World Cup after a strong showing in a friendly against Turkey.

This game will provide both coaches with the chance to test out their ideas right before the tournament begins. Both coaches will ponder over the number 3 as the game goes on. For Van Gaal, which 3 to add to his chosen 20; for Appiah, which 3 to release from his 26. The World Cup draws ever closer.

By: Kelvin Wellington [ Follow Kelvin Wellington on Twitter ]

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