Sports Features of Thursday, 27 December 2012

Source: Ransford Frempong Peprah

Still Time To Correct "What If"

All the countries heading to the 2013 AFCON tournament that will be staged in South Africa from 19th January to 10th February have one aim and that aim is to win the ultimate price. Is our Senior National Team, the Ghana Black Stars, as well participating in this same tournament, has the same purpose going into this tournament in South Africa? One may ask why this question, since all countries are entering into the competition with the same aim? Kindly read on to find out the reason of this statement.

The Black Stars has had no trophy to its name since 1982. This is over 31 years of missing the ultimate trophy and still going into it without all stones turned. An amount of over $7 million has been approved in the name of this participation alone, which such an amount could have been used for something different to benefit the citizens of the Republic of Ghana. Therefore, the question still stands. What is the purpose of the Black Stars entering into the up-coming tournament? What is the sense of wasting finances if all things are not put in place? Many are calling and writing about the missing link in the team and most of the fans want the coach to be left alone.

A coach’s decision is suppose to be accepted by all. That is agreed. Mr. James Kwasi Appiah is the National Head Coach and that too has not escaped us. He knows the game better than most of us, and we are all aware of that too. On the contrary, his decision of relying on only three strikers in the coming 2013 AFCON Tournament is too dangerous comparing to what is at stake. It doesn't matter what game plan or game formation he has under his sleeves; a room should be giving to “What if”. In other words, “What If” something happens to two or even one of the strikers?

The purpose of this article is not to twist the arm of the coach but to make known some facts that may have been overlooked by the technical team of the Ghana Black Stars so that solutions could be provided on time to prevent time wasting, financial lost, and humiliation.

The Provisional squad contains 3 goalkeepers, 10 defenders, 9 midfielders, 1 Makeshift Attacker and 3 strikers.

With four attackers provided by Kwasi Appiah, one of them, Yahaya Mohammed, is a midfielder but not a striker. Although, he is a Makeshift Attacker, he is still not a striker. There are many reasons a team needs strikers and since Yahaya is not a striker, he shouldn’t be made one. He is a very good offensive midfielder, a Play-Maker, and should be used as that. If Yahaya is selected in the final squad, the country would benefit from his versatile prowess behind the striking force. No one is doubting Yahaya’s talent on the pitch; on the other hand, to have the full functionality of a player, he should be used at his proper positions. Hence, looking into the various departments of the Provisional Squad provided by Coach Appiah, it is clear the list contains 3 strikers but not 4. This means the Ghana Black Stars is going into a tournament, haven’t won in 31yrs, with only 3 strikers. Is this not a dangerous game to play? Not that we lack strikers to fill in the gaps. We have couple, but for some strange reasons, they have been left out.

When the schedule of the tournament is observed from group states to the finals, the Black Stars will have 3 matches to play within 8 days, from 20thJanuary 2013 to 28th January 2013. Even if our formations would consist of a single striker up-front as in 4-5-1, 4-4-1-1, 4-3-2-1, 4-2-3-1 and so on, can the team apply only one striker game plan throughout a whole tournament? I’m just curious to know if it would be possible. After group stages, the intervals between days of matches even becomes shorter till the end of the tournament. Moreover, these players are already tired from club assignments before they even arrived for the competition. Not only that according to Fifa, the AFCON tournament is the most physically drained competition among all Fifa competitions. Thus, why enter into such a competition with only 3 strikers? All evidence indicates that our striking department would be soon worn out when we most needed its services.

Now, here is the “What If” question I mentioned earlier. With only three strikers, Asamoah Gyan, Emmanuel Clottey, and Richmond Boakye Yiadom, “What if one of them is shown a card or hurt? Can we depend on only two strikers? Can two forward players handle the pressure for the rest of the tournament? This decision, if nothing is done to it, may bring pressure to the strikers, and as such, is a dangerous game to play. With few experiences observed from past tournaments, one could COUNT Asamoah Gyan OUT in times of pressure. Folks, this is when our hit man becomes vulnerable.

Below are few examples:

Our first encounter in the up-coming tournament is against our former coach's, LeRoy’s, team, Congo DR. He is now the Head Coach of Congo DR. A coach whose term with our national team, our main striker, Asamoah Gyan, couldn’t perform though the player was at his peak. Does LeRoy know Asamoah Gyan's weak points? No one can tell.

AFCON 2008, at our own backyard, the team’s main striker, Assamoah Gyan, struggled throughout the tournament. Though he scored the first goal of that tournament against Guinea in the 55th minutes, it was through a penalty, and couldn’t score afterwards. In the middle of this competition, he and his brother, Baffour Gyan decided to pack their bags and wanted to leave camp. Basically, Gyan can’t perform well under pressure.

2012 AFCON semi-final match against Zambia, Gyan couldn’t find the net including a give away penalty. When opponents’ defenders are harassing him, he becomes a lion with no teeth. There are many facts I could present to support this argument. However, it may look as if the player is being painted black. These facts are not meant to bring back bad memories, or to dent our best striker’s image. It is to draw attention to some facts Coach James Kwasi Appiah may have over-looked. These experiences are mentioned to be aware that relying on a single striker, or as little as three forward strikers, in such a high class competition, is not advisable.

What is the solution in this situation? Below are couple strikers most of us have witnessed their performances. These players are doing well for their respective clubs and in their respective leagues.

Jordan Ayew is one of them. His omission from the squad was by far the most talked about news in the country weeks before. Due to that, his case was blown out of proportion to the extend people think he has a beef with the Black Stars Technical Team. To keep peace among the players and in camp, I wouldn’t recommend his inclusion at this time around, though, would be happy to see him in the squad if all differences could be transparent and settled before time.

Abdul Majeed Waris, on the other hand, has accumulated 23 goals and 9 assist in 29 matches played so far in the Swedish League. He is our best candidate to be included in the squad if there is time to do so.

These are the two promising star strikers the country possesses. At least, one should be included to allow our striking department to contain four true strikers in the squad.

As a football loving country with its citizens not only football followers but also football fanatics, if a decision concerning our national team is unconvincing, are we supposed to sit and not to say a word? Nothing would be worse than to sit and be silent as if all is well. When the end result becomes too bitter for us to swallow, yes, the coach may be fired. Still, what would we gain from his dismissal? I mean, what are we going to achieve when the coach gets fired? Three coaches in five years, where is the consistency in here? Don’t forget, this is a local coach. We could benefit from his services when things go right. Besides, his price is reasonable and affordable and can’t beat that.

Therefore, let us help one of our own, James Kwasi Appia, to win, or at least, to go far in the up-coming 2013 AFCON tournament through our knowledge and through our support. We should be part of our national team’s success. We all, whether one is a coach or not, should be part in bringing the ultimate price home by sealing every loop hole in the squad.

“In All Things, Get Wisdom, Get Understanding.”

Ransford Frempong Peprah (Players’ Agent – SMWW)