Sports Features of Saturday, 21 June 2014
Source: Nii Ayitey Tetteh
It was way past midnight when I left the Champs Bar in haste. As I drove through streets of Accra, I could feel the palpable silence; a stark contrast to the festive atmosphere a few hours earlier. Everything had changed after 90 minutes; the bragging rights had officially transferred to the USA after beating Ghana 2-1 in the opening 2014 World Cup Group G game. It wasn’t that the Black Stars lost; after all, we all knew it was going to be difficult beating the USA for a third time running, yes, we knew that, but it was in the manner in which we lost; the general consensus is that it was an avoidable loss. Even before the break of dawn, the traditional post mortem after a Black Stars loss started and has since dominated headlines the entire week. I bet you have had your fill dissecting the loss; I have had mine too but now, I would like to look ahead to the crucial game versus Germany, come this Saturday June 21, in Fortaleza, Brazil. And while the post mortem has revealed several issues, the sticking point has been Ghana’s coach, Kwesi Appiah’s tactics or lack of it. How will he set out the team this Saturday? I have the “apor”, hopefully Appiah will listen.
Track Muller’s runs
Thomas Muller would definitely be any coach’s delight. He is a striker who has the innate ability, almost second nature, to get in scoring positions and guarantee you goals once your team creates chances. It is the reason why he has scored 8 World Cup goals in 8 matches. Now, in as much as Muller has that sixth sense, Germany’s shape very much contributes to him losing or evading his markers to get on goal. In the game against Portugal, German coach Low set his team in a 4-3-3 formation with Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil flanking Muller who played central. The key to beating Portugal 4-0 and Muller getting 3 of those goals were the swapping of positions by these players. Muller tendered to drift wide, either to the left or right, while Ozil and Gotze who played wide, drifted inside to occupy the space by Muller stretching the defense wide. Now, to foil these movements, the Black Stars’ defense will need to be super alert and track Muller especially. It requires organization at the back and so far Jonathan Mensah has showed that, of the two central defenders, he is more intelligent and calmer than John Boye. I will still recommend that a player with organizational nous be fielded together with Mensah to counter these intricate movements by the German front three. Who could he be? None other than Michael Essien, but if Appiah is still reluctant in starting Essien at center back then he has to do a big number on John Boye or else Muller will be laughing all the way to the Goal King.
Rope in Badu
Dealing with Thomas Muller and co. is only half of the job done; the key battle which will decide whether Ghana salvages something from this game or bombs out with a loss will be fought in midfield. Kwesi Appiah has been adamant about starting the Black Stars’ best player at left back. Appiah should be humble enough to admit that he goofed and push Kwadwo Asamoah into midfield as a deep lying play maker. Kwadwo possesses the skill set to destruct opposition play and quickly transition into attack by burst of pace, a clever pass or by simply taking players on directly to create scoring chances, indeed it was one of those moves that resulted in Ghana’s only goal against the USA. Rabiu Mohammed can complement Kwadwo by sitting in front of the defense to shield while Kwadwo plays box to box.
Having sorted out central and defensive midfield, we can now shift to the wings. Even though Christian Atsu was very mobile and lively in the last game, Saturday’s game requires work horses and Atsu barely has a tail. The Stars will require players with boundless energy who can work the wings offensively and defensively and also act as an auxiliary central midfielder when required. Andre Ayew should keep his place on the left wing but Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu should be introduced on the right, not only to work the wings, but to also drift into the middle to ensure that Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm and Sami Khedira do not crowd Kwadwo and Rabiu out. Badu’s industry will be required to battle Khedira in particular. And while Badu will be busy putting in that shift, he will also guarantee the Black Stars long range shots which could catch Manuel Neuer off guard. Once the midfield is stabilized, Ghana can build on that by deploying Kevin Prince Boateng behind lead striker Asamoah Gyan in the hole. Boateng should start this game considering his history with the Germans; his presence will guarantee attention from the Germans and Appiah should instruct him to drift to the wings too, to stretch the German defense to create openings for either Gyan or runners, Ayew and Badu to shoot on goal.
This “apor” sounds just about right, doesn’t it? Well, should Appiah listen and act without waiting for the Germans to be tired like he wished on the Americans, Ghanaians can have something to cheer about deep into Saturday night! GO BLACK STARS GO!
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(Culled from the 90 Minutes)