Have you ever had that moment when you address the Netherlands simply as Holland because it rolls off your tongue easier, I bet you have.
According to Nana, my ‘prim-pro’ friend, the correct usage is the Netherlands. Apparently, North Holland and South Holland are two provinces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Back in the 17 th century, these two provinces served as a gateway, a major trade hub, where commercial activities with the west were conducted and as such, the Netherlands, became commonly referred to as Holland.
Though it might be politically incorrect, both names have been used interchangeably since, especially by those of us in the football space.
As Ghana’s Black Stars engage their Dutch counterparts, the Oranje, in a 2014 World Cup preparatory match tomorrow June 31, at 6.30 GMT in Rotterdam, Ghana’s Black Stars will need to be similarly detailed in what is considered a useful work out ahead of the tourney.
When we sit in front of our screens, the name Holland or Netherlands will matter little, instead we will concern ourselves with 3 major talking points:
THE MOCK RONALDO TEST
Since last December when the World Cup draw was made and Ghana grouped with Germany, Portugal and U.S.A, many Ghanaians have been having nightmares about a certain Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. Part of that fear is external; Ronaldo is the reigning world best player and just recently aided Real Madrid to annex their 10th UEFA Champions League, breaking records for fun and mesmerizing defenders.
The second part of that fear is internal; Ghana’s full backs have not inspired confidence in Ghanaians and naturally, there is some form of apprehension about how Ronaldo and co. will be handled on the wings. Tomorrow’s game against the Netherlands provides the Black Stars defense a chance for a dress rehearsal of that ‘fearful’ battle.
Granted the Dutch wingers in Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and Jeremain Lens are not exactly ‘Ronaldo-sphic’ but they are pacy wingers with loads of guile and trickery that will provide the perfect mock test of Daniel Opare, Harrison Afful, Samuel Inkoom and Jefferey Schlupp’s readiness to deal with the Ronaldo threat. Do these defenders wield the positional sense, speed and strength to execute the task? The answer lies in Rotterdam.
AN IDEA OF STARTING LINE UP
Another usefulness of this high profiled friendly is that it provides Ghana’s coach, Kwesi Appiah, an opportunity to fine tune his tactics, especially his preferred formation for the World Cup.
Indeed, his opposite number Louis Van Gaal has openly stated that he will use this match to test his starting line up in this game and I do not expect Kwesi Appiah to do any different.
If I were Appiah, I will start with Adam Kwarasey in goal because he, among the three goalies, has the perfect balance of experience and form.
As mentioned above, Ghana will have pacy and tricky wingers to contend with, so I will play Daniel Opare and Jeffrey Schlupp at the right and left full backs because they both strike a balance between pace and power.
In central defense, I will pair experienced Michael Essien with John Boye who will complement his senior with height and ruggedness. In the double defensive midfield pivot, I will pair in form Afriyie Acquah with Sulley Muntari while I will deploy Kwadwo Asamoah on the left wing for his ability to assist the left full back and similarly, Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew on the right.
I will put Abdul Majeed Waris on top of the attack supported by Asamoah Gyan in the hole. This strike partnership has worked and shouldn’t be broken unless Waris fails to step up, only will I bring in Kevin Prince Boateng to play in the hole and push Gyan on top. Looking good huh? We can’t wait.
THE CHOPPED THREE
Chopped sounds a little hash but that’s the reality of the situation. FIFA’s deadline for submission of final 23 man squads is June 2, only a couple of days after this friendly and it wouldn’t take any intelligent guessing to know that Appiah will use this game to finalize the chosen 23 and send 3 players back home to watch the World Cup in HDTV.
Appiah’s mind would have been made by now, but surely, he must have about 5 or 6 borderline players out of who 3 will be dropped. Straight off the top of my head I am thinking a David Accam will have to play out of skin to book his seat; Mubarak Wakaso will need to have a stinker of a game to give up his seat; Rabiu Mohamed’s match fitness will be under scrutiny even though I get a sense he will get the loyalty pass like Fataau Dauda; Afriyie Acquah is up against stiff competition in the midfield but if he produces another outstanding performance he will have Appiah reaching for Tylenol extra; and then there are the borderline defenders; Jefferey Schlupp was decent in the farewell game in Accra, but then again, that was more of an exhibition game and this game will answer whether he is ready; Rashid Sumaila’s seeming recklessness where he has caused 2 penalties in his last 2 outings may hurt him if he doesn’t get an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.
So, those are the candidates for the board. Come tomorrow night, we will have a clearer idea whose head will be chopped or is it cut rather? Well, Just like Holland or Netherlands, the value is the same.
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