What were the primary stories to emerge from the Black Stars’ triumphant home victory over the Dodos on Sunday?
EDITORIAL By Ed Dove Follow on Twitter
Beyond a certain point, scorelines can make you sit up and take notice.
7-1 is one such result, and we should take little away from the conviction and the confidence of Ghana ’s demolition of Mauritius on Sunday.
Tunisia may have stolen the show this weekend with their 8-1 hammering of Djibouti, but with many of the continent’s giants labouring against so-called weaker sides, the Black Stars overcame their particular obstacle with poise and panache.
Grant raised some eyebrows ahead of the contest with his team selection.
There were two key talking points here, and it was intriguing to watch the consequences of these decisions unravel during the course of the contest.
Badu | A return to relevance?
The first was the surprising decision to start Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu ahead of Afriyie Acquah in the heart of the midfield.
Badu, along with Mohammed Rabiu, started the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations as the Black Stars’ first-choice pairing. However, during the tournament, Grant opted to rotate his options, and replaced Badu and Rabiu with Acquah and Mubarak Wakaso.
While Ghana didn’t ultimately win the continental showpiece, the dynamic, creative, technically-proficient, resolute pairing in the heart of the park were influential in their run to the final.
Acquah appears to have lost some of Grant’s faith following the friendly defeat to Senegal in spring; he was dropped for both of the subsequent matches against Mali and Togo, and played no part on Sunday.
Badu brings more energy to the midfield, but he cannot offer Wakaso’s poise nor Acquah’s physical presence. It remains to be seen how the diminutive pairing of Badu and Wakaso would function against top-class midfield opposition.
Baba & Schlupp | Grant couldn’t just choose one…!
The second was the choice to play both Abdul Baba Rahman and Jeffrey Schlupp.
At club level, the pair of left-backs are arguably Ghana’s most in-form players. In some ways, while Black Stars fans can be completely confident in the future of that particular full-back position, it’s a shame that the two talented defenders—both playing regularly in major European leagues—fulfil the same role.
I have mooted the option of playing both together, but I never truly expected it to happen—tellingly, for the recent friendly against Mali, Grant opted to use forward Frank Acheampong as left-back in Baba’s absence, ahead of Schlupp.
Against Mauritius, however Grant used both men from the off—a first for the Black Stars—and in hindsight, it was an excellent decision made at the right time.
Facing such feeble opponents, it was a good opportunity to try such a progressive experiment, while the absence of Andre Ayew meant that the Israeli coach needed a solution to the left-wing position.
Interestingly, while Schlupp was given the more advanced role, it was Baba who impressed and, along with his counterpart at right-back—Harrison Afful—was one of Ghana’s top three performers in the first half.
Baba imitated the impact of Faouzi Ghoulam for Algeria against the Seychelles on Saturday evening and tore forward at every opportunity and found the space to send in a series of top-class crosses. He was rewarded by a brace of assists in the first period.
Schlupp, while muted during the opening 45 minutes, ought to be given credit for his off-the-ball movement, and for the way that his tendency to drift infield created a channel for Baba to operate in. This may have been a ploy by Grant, with Christian Atsu replicating the Leicester City man’s movement on the right flank, allowing Afful to drive forward (to great effect) on the right.
Schlupp did earn his reward—with a second-half goal—and certainly did enough to suggest that, Dede or no Dede, he ought to be considered when Grant assembles his next starting XI.
Where this leaves Acheampong, or even David Accam, is open to debate—while it’s fairly safe to say that Kwadwo Asamoah won’t be required on the left anytime soon!
Jordan | The saviour, or still much to prove?
Another talking point is Jordan Ayew…suddenly Ghana have a new darling.
Certainly, there are certain things the Lorient forward can do very well; he is an excellent finisher and deserves credit for dropped down to the Stade du Moustoir after leaving the safety net of Marseille.
12 goals in the French top flight is encouraging, especially considering the struggles of his side, but a brace—albeit an impressive one—against Mauritius proves little.
The islanders are currently 176th in the Fifa World Rankings; they stand alongside footballing powerhouses such as Guam and Laos, and are beneath the US Virgin Islands—a territory with a population less than a 20th of Accra!
You can only score against the defence put in front of you, and this is no criticism of Jordan, but his showing against Les Dodos was no coming of age; it was no great epiphany.
It doesn’t hide the fact that before this match, he had scored only once in his last nine international outings, or that he had managed only two goals in the last 18 fixtures.
If he goes another eight without scoring, I wonder how many of you will still be claiming he is the complete package!
A wonderful result, certainly, a praiseworthy performance, definitely, but don’t expect such accommodating any opponents any time soon.
By; Ed Dove, Goal
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