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Sports Features of Thursday, 19 June 2014

Source: Adjei-Kyeremeh, Nathanael

US-Ghana match: Revenge served cold on a broken Ghana plate

The USMNT defeated the Black Stars for the first time in the world cup by two goals to one. In the two previous encounters the Ghanaians recorded 2-1 victories. The country is yet to come to terms with this defeat, because in our estimation, ‘Ghana always beat US’ and that was the cliché until we lost.

When the draw was announced, many thought that our main challenge will be how to win against Germany and Portugal. Pundits however were unanimous that our group was a tough one that none could be written off.

The US came with revenge in mind, Goalkeeper Tim Howard had said: “I think the memory will still be very fresh of the loss (to Ghana) in the Round of 16 in 2010. I think that will help us more than it will them. We’re a much stronger team than we were, and they’ll know that going into the game. We’ll look to set that result right.”
From the game it became obvious that the U.S had learnt their lessons well and their determination to set the result right paid off.

Unfortunately their win came against a fractured and ill prepared Ghanaian side. Outlined below are factors that contributed to our defeat.

The Preparation

In the warm-up matches ahead of the tournament, the U.S. won all three of its games -- against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria. Ghana lost two of its three -- to Montenegro and the Netherlands. (It beat South Korea).

In the match against Montenegro a David Addy foul after just 15 seconds gave Montenegro a first-minute penalty goal and the only goal in the match.

Against the Netherlands a fifth-minute goal from Manchester United forward Robin Van Persie was all the Netherlands needed to down the Black Stars in Rotterdam.
Any serious coach with the knowledge of these two facts will seek to unsettle the Black Stars through an early goal. It was for the Ghanaians to have appreciated this weakness and worked hard towards preventing its repeat, but that didn't happen, Dempsey capitalized on a poor marking and scored a goal in just 30 seconds of play

Unsettled appearance fee negotiations

According to media reports and contrary to perceptions that the stars had been sorted out financially, negotiations for an increase in the appearance was still ongoing even a day before the game. The stars were demanding $100,000 instead of the $75,000 offered. Government had maintained the $75,000 appearance fee paid in 2010 as part of general ‘austerity measure’. But it seems the stars are not in sync with this decision.

How do you go into battle with such unresolved business?

Questionable Patriotism

In the past few months what has become topical is how broke the economy of Ghana is, coupled with erratic power supply. The Ghana cedi has been the worst performing African currency in the first quarter and for the third year running is expected to suffer a double-digit fiscal deficit. If JPMorgan Chase & Co is to be believed the currency could depreciate another 20% this year as foreign-exchange reserves recede and inflation accelerates (see: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-28/jpmorgan-sees-ghana-s-cedi-dropping-20-on-inflation-reserves.html )
Against this bleak financial forecast, citizens have been asked to tighten their belts and bite the bullet. Sadly the Black Stars are not seen to be doing what the ordinary Ghanaian has been asked to do.

From the demand of the players, one questions their motive for playing for Ghana and may surmise that it has little to do with sacrificing for the country. Sadly they have to be induced with huge sums of money before they do their best for their country.

Our divided support

Just when Ghanaians were trying to put aside politics, economic hardships and erratic power supply to cheer the Black stars on, the Deputy Minister of Sports made an unfortunate statement that angered many Ghanaians. The Deputy Minister Joseph Yammin had said that majority of the supporters government will be funding to go and cheer the Black Stars in Brazil will be from the National Democratic Congress Party, because according to him the party supporters worked tireless to bring the party to power and they have to benefit.
The Graphic dedicated their June 13, 2014 editorial to give a caution to the Minister not to “politicise the only pastime that makes all of us truly Ghanaian”. The editorial described the Ministers statement as a “threat to national unity and cohesion” arguing that sporting events have become the unifying force as partisan politics has deeply polarised our society.

Unfortunately the Honourable Yammin's statement had already caused the harm. Some have become indifferent about the fortunes of the Stars. Others openly supported USA. In our two previous encounters the nation was solidly behind the Stars, unfortunately there isn’t a genuine nationwide support for our current team.

Complacency

That Ghanaians were complacent going into the game is undeniable. All sorts of permutations and score lines came up by pundits and fanatics alike. Many were even thinking about how we were going to match the Germans on Saturday instead of our yet to be played match.
With predictions flying from everywhere the dominant theme was steeped in superstition. That God has always blessed Ghana and will bless us with a victory. There were even those who made it a pro-gay versus anti-gay match and that because God hates homosexuality, He was likely to give Ghana the victory. This complacency no doubt reflected in our play on the day. Even after being down by a goal, we played and squandered opportunities as if the chances we were missing amounted to nothing and that at the end of the day victory will be ours regardless.

Tactical Bankruptcy and Indiscipline

Many have questioned Kwasi Appiah’s starting line-up. He has been defending his choices but unfortunately to say he benched his experienced players because he thought the USMNT will be tired in the second half was unfortunate. A huge chunk of blame will be placed at the doorstep of our technical team. They failed to map out a strategy that will bring out the best from each player; they failed to get our boys to concentrate from the blast of the whistle. Our substitutions were more programmed than tactical, and our players were also tactically indiscipline. There’ve been several reports of dressing room indiscipline among the playing body as well, but it seems little have been done to curb it. Post-defeat you have players granting interviews and questioning the tactics of their coach? These don't augur well for the team.

Ghana lost a game that we could have won if we had approached the match with the right attitude. We have an opportunity albeit a difficult one to right most of our wrongs on Saturday. In our subsequent encounters (even after this mundial) we should avoid our ‘business as usual’ attitude, boastful talk, exaggerated hopes, and baseless superstition and adopt hard work, determination and focus. These we must do for victory, if we really don’t want to be served with such defeats again.

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