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Sports Features of Friday, 16 May 2014

Source: E.K. Kissi

BS Positional Analysis and Player Selections II

Part II: BS Positional Analysis and Player Selections

By E.K. Kissi

The fans of the Ghana Black Stars commend national team coach, James Akwasi Appiah for his bold player selections for the 2014 Brazil World Cup. It has been over 33years since Ghana Black Stars won a trophy at the senior men’s national soccer team level. We the fans are anxious and tired of waiting.

We hope Brazil 2014 will be the year in which the Black Stars of Ghana will bring the coveted World Cup trophy to Accra. This will ease the pain of Ghanaians seeing the incessant devaluation of the Cedi against major currencies and the deteriorating quality of life and standard of living.

Ghana is capable of winning the World Cup if the Black Stars coach is bold enough to select the players who can accomplish that mission. For this to happen, the coach should apply tactical strategies and benchmarking as well as shunning blind loyalty to certain players.

The preceding are the areas I believe that the coach is lacking. We the fans of the Black Stars want coach Appiah to succeed, but he must apply tactical analysis, benchmarking and excommunicate from his mentality blind loyalty to undeserving players in his selection protocol.

Modern soccer is scientific; each position requires a certain type of player based on physical, technical, leadership and mental attributes. Again, benchmarking is important in ascertaining these attributes.

As a consequence, the objective of this article is to examine all eleven positions of the Black Stars and select players who are capable of performing at the highest level and bringing the World Cup to Accra.

Below is a continuation from Part 1 of this article.

The right-back position was occupied by John Pantsil since 2002 African Cup of Nations in Mali. Pantsil actually was a midfielder converted to a right back. He performed admirably. Since old age and dip in form caught up with Pantsil, the players suited for the right back position are Samuel Ainooson, Jonathan Mensah and Jerry Akaminko.

On coach Appiah’s selected players for lateral defensive areas, Inkoom and Opare, Inkoom’s inadequacies as a defender were examined in part I of this article.

Although Opare has pace, defends well and sends great crosses into the eighteen box, his lack of height can be exploited by our opponents. Coach Appiah prefers these players due to their ability to overlap and join the offense. The overlapping ability is an attribute Coach Appiah looks for, but disregards height and defensive capabilities.

Jonathan Mensah is a player who can easily be converted to the right back position. He doesn’t possesses the height to play Center Back at the highest level of the game, but his stature, technical ability, passing and defensive capabilities make him ideal for the right back position.

As a Center Back, he tends to display rush tackles at the edge of the eighteen box which makes him vulnerable to concede penalties or possible red card. I believe that Coach Appiah and Ghana can benefit considerably if Jonathan Mensah is converted to the right back position.

Unlike Inkoom and Opare, Jonathan Mensah’s adequate height, technical and defensive abilities should minimize our opponents utilizing aerial balls to exploit the right back position.

Another player who is suited for the right back position is Samuel Ainooson of Kumasi Asante Kotoko, FC. This player was a revelation during the just ended CHAN 2014 tournament.

He is one of the main reason Maxwell Kunadu’s team had the best defense during the tournament. The player is a huge asset Coach Appiah needs to consider. Samuel Ainooson is miles ahead of Samuel Inkoom in defensive capabilities and will fit in perfectly at the right back position.

The left back position has been a problem for the Black Stars since the retirement of the current coach James Akwasi Appiah. Also, it has been a long time since a natural left footed player manned that position for the Black Stars. The preferred player for coach Appiah has been Harrison Afful.

Coach Appiah has loyalty to certain players regardless of form and capabilities. Such unchecked blind loyalty to keep calling players like Inkoom, Afful, Jordan Ayew, Fatau Dauda and before, Dominic Adiyiah will be coach Appiah’s undoing in the foreseeable future.

If you are coaching a team capable of winning the World Cup, unchecked blind loyalty to certain players should be discarded. Objectivity, timely tactical decision making and practicality in player selection the benchmarks needed to win the World Cup.

This is why coaches like Luiz Scolari of Brazil had won the World Cup. He is capable of pruning players like Kaka, Ronaldinho, and Robinho from the Brazil team. Why can’t Appiah prune players like Inkoom, Dauda and Jordan Ayew from the team?

While Harrison Afful is a technically sound player, he also lacks the physique and height necessary to intimidate wingers like Cristiano Ronaldo. Coach Appiah prefers Harrison Afful because of his overlapping ability and technique.

Afful, like Opare can send great crosses into the eighteen box when he overlaps. Afful’s defensive capabilities are anemic and he can be exploited aerially for his lack of height.

Michel Essien found this out during the Champions League final match between Manchester United and Chelsea when Cristiano Ronaldo out leaped him to score.

Cristiano Ronaldo is great in the air and coach Appiah needs players with aerial, defensive and technical abilities on the field, if the Black Stars are to stop Ronaldo from running rampant. Coach Appiah may have to deploy Kwadwo Asamoah at left defensive midfield to cover Harrison Afful.

Coach Appiah is blessed with talented players; for the first time in a long time, Ghana has capable left footed players competing for the left back position and coach Appiah should give them a chance to excel.

Jeffrey Schlupp, Masahudu Alhassan, Gideon Baah, Rashid Abdul and Baba Rahman are all excellent left backs coach Appiah can select. Jeffrey Schlupp should definitely go to Brazil. He has had excellent year at the left back position for Leicester City, FC helping the team gain promotion to the Barclays Premier League.

Black Stars fans will be seeing a lot of Jeffrey Schlupp during this World Cup and also during the next Barclays Premiership. Jeffrey has physique, height and the intimidating personality to stop any winger. His above average height should compensate for the lack of height throughout the selected squad.

Without Isaac Vorsah, the only player in the squad with reasonable height to defend against the tall Germans and the Portuguese is Jerry Akaminko. Adding Jeffrey Schlupp at left-back position should help to neutralize the height advantage of the Black Stars’ opponents.

Another player to consider is Masahudu Alhassan. He had a great 2012 African Cup of Nations tournament in Gabon and most Black Stars fans felt the savior for the left back position had arrived. For some odd reason, Masahudu has been discarded; however, he is having a great season in Italy and should be recalled.

There is no excuse anymore for Ghana not to have a player like Jeffrey Schlupp, Masahudu Alhassan or Gideon Baah consistently manning the left back position. Role players like Inkoom and Afful can be okay for the African terrain, but to win the World Cup, the coach needs complete players who are fit, has technical ability and height to defend aerial balls.

Coach Appiah must recall Masahudu Alhassan or Gideon Baah to act as a back up to Jeffrey Schlupp. Gideon Baah, the former Ashanti Kotoko left-back is having a great season in Finland. He should be monitored and encouraged.

Harrison Afful’s lack of height and physique make this Black Stars fan very uneasy. Without Players like Jeffrey Schlupp and Jonathan Mensah occupying the lateral defensive positions of the Black Stars, I can see Ghana conceding goals aerially.

Only the Black Stars technical team knows why after excelling at the left-back position in Cup of Nations in Gabon 2012, Masahudu Alhassan has been forgetting. He should be recalled into the national team due to his height, technical ability, form, fitness and youthfulness.

The choice for the starting line-up for the left back position in 2014 World Cup in Brazil for the Black Stars should be Jeffrey Schlupp.

Stay tuned for Part III of this article, objective positional analysis and player selection of the Black Stars continue next time. Part III of this series will examine and analyze the defensive midfield and the right midfield positions.

Black Stars’ fans best 26 players based on experience, fitness, technical ability, team spirit and form for 2014 World Cup in Brazil are the following:

Goalkeepers: Adam Kwarasey, Stephen Adams and Razak Brimah

Right-backs: Samuel Ainooson, Daniel Opare and Jonathan Mensah

Left-backs: Jeffrey Schlupp, Masahudu Alhassan and Gideon Baah

Center-Backs: Jerry Akaminko, John Boye, Awal Mohammed and Kwabena Edusie

Midfield: Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Andre Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah, Mubarak Wakaso, Rabui Mohammed, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, Afriyie Acquah, Patrick Nyarko.

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan, Kevin Prince Boateng, Abdul Majeed Warris and David Titi Accam.

Stand-by or bench players: Emmanuel Osei Banahene, Kwame Karikari, Rashid Samaila, Christian Atsu, Isaac Coffie, Baba Rahman and Abdul Rashid.

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