Reflections: Senegal exposes Ghana cracks again

As it was in Mongomo, so it proved in Le Harve but this time through different paths and under different circumstances.

In January, Moussa Sow scored with practically the last kick of the game to give Senegal all three points and the perfect start to the Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea having fallen behind to Dede Ayew’s penalty kick in the first half. In Le Harve, Senegal went in front, never looked back and held on for a win that would do their confidence a world of good after the Nations Cup win over proved to be the dawn of false hope.

In Le Harve they played in a manner to believe that the fiery ex-international Aliou Cisse can bring a bit of the old Senegal swagger back after the Swiss based Konate’s double gave them the win.

Then again this was a friendly which was sometimes end-to-end but which also sometimes resembled a proper demonstration of what mid-season is about; a game low on quality with little interest for both side.

For the Black Stars the implication of the loss to a side below them in the FIFA ranking could be in the loss of more ranking points. The days when we shrugged at the complicated system of ranking and said it didn’t matter are long gone. These days they affect whether you are seeded in qualifying or not which means defeats in friendly games have taken on even bigger meaning.

Avram Grant and his team won’t particularly lose sleep over the defeat though. Friendly games officially have been to get squads to gel a bit more, players to like each other a bit more, to develop more options and to generally keep the feel good factor running. For the players it has been an opportunity to impress the boss even though as Ghana’s long history with friendly games have shown it can be the games that fast tracks the demise of international careers too.

David Addy’s 2014 world cup dream literally died with that tackle in Montenogro that resulted in a 0-1 loss. William Amamoo never got back in after some horror goalkeeping against Japan. Against Senegal there were no such glaringly poor performances but there were a few reputations taking a battering.

Kwesi Appiah’s rise to a regular Ghana international has been hailed by some and viewed with curious interest by other. Since the Nations Cup when he scored and put in the right shift at the right time, he has returned to Crystal Palace and set up base with the U-20. And despite signing a two-year contract extension, there doesn’t seem to be much of a chance of adding to his ten appearances for the club, the last of which came two years ago.

International football has come to mean an incredible lot to him then but the last few games have triggered many questions. He struggled in the Nations Cup final and barely got the right touch against Senegal. They say never judge a man on one game. But the history of Ghana football means that as the questions rise, so will the scrutiny of a player whose call up continues to baffle many around here. What Appiah’s performance against Senegal did means those who swore he gets into the side unfairly at the expense of others will now have even more ammunition. And those voices will get louder unless he begins to play club football with Reading who he has joined on loan till the end of the season.

In fairness to him, he is not the only player who struggled on the day even though the poor technique stuck out. The first touch was heavy and poor, his passing not top notch. Others were poor too. Harrison Afful delivered a cross of grace for Richmond Boakye Yiadom to head in. It should not however paper over the cracks of a generally poor individual performance. Dede Ayew didn’t do much, Christian Atsu did not have the best of days either and questions can be legitimately asked about the positioning of Razak Braimah when he was lobbed by the brilliant Konate for Senegela’s first.

All that means the honeymoon period for Avram Grant gets shorter and shorter. Reports that he is building a new look Black Stars are grossly exagratted given that it is the same group of players that came through what proves to be a revolving door. Kwesi Appiah and Daniel Amartey maybe notable exceptions but it too much thought is given to that narration.

After a reasonably good nations cup, the Israeli will be judged by games like last night’s and the upcoming ones against Mali as well by the qualifiers that Ghana could be playing on the road to the 2017 Nations Cup.

If that judgement needs to be good, there will be the need for urgent competition in the goalkeeping department, some creativity won’t be bad and there will be the need for call ups that doesn’t scream reward for friends and mediocrity.

After riding on the traditional Ghanaian form at the Nations Cup, defeat to Senegal potentially proves it is not all a bed of roses. It will be Grant’s job to prove there will be progress by deeds not by claims of revolution in the team misplaced comparisons to Mohammed Ali’s legendary mental strength.

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