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Sports Features of Thursday, 7 February 2019


Black Satellites must improve or take a rain in-check on Poland 2019

The Satellites must avoid defeat against Mali to qualify to the next round The Satellites must avoid defeat against Mali to qualify to the next round

Anyone who monitored Ghana’s stuttering run-up to the 2019 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations could have discerned that the country’s victory over Burkina Faso earlier this week after the competition kicked off was, at best, fortunate.

Daniel Lomotey’s two goals were the difference between Ghana and its northern neighbors, but the result was more a reflection of the opposition’s shortcomings than the Black Satellites’ ‘excellence’. Against Senegal on Wednesday, when the test was sterner and the other team more formidable, Ghana got served.

With the Satellites’ defence unable to ooze enough confidence and strength, the scoreline — 2-0 to Senegal — might have flattered Ghana less. The argument could be made, of course, that Senegal enjoyed extra rest — a luxury denied a Ghana squad that had its opening match played a day later than originally scheduled — but the Satellites appeared weighed down by more than just weary legs, with only a handful of players rising above the general mediocrity. Senegal were significantly better and deservedly won, booking their ticket to the Fifa U-20 World Cup due summertime.

Ghana do have one more shot at securing their own place at the Mundial, though, four years after last making an appearance. Hopefully, though, when that chance — against Mali, third-placed in Group B — comes around on February 9, Ghana would pass it up, despite head coach Jimmy Cobblah’s confidence about dismissing the Malian threat.

“I can assure you that we will qualify for the World Cup come the day we play Mali,” he stated post-match.

Cobblah is right. Ghana can reach the World Cup and simultaneously make the ongoing Afcon’s semis, despite Mali proving a bogey side for the Satellites in recent years. A draw at the Stade Général Seyni Kountché would suffice, but unless drastic changes are applied to the unit — technically and on the pitch — the immediate future doesn’t look very bright. It’s not just about tweaking the present group until it clicks; observers have suggested, too, that Cobblah casts his net wider in handing out invitations should the World Cup dream materialize.

And maybe the former Wa All Stars boss could do with an honest assessment of his own abilities. Anyone can tell what’s wrong with the way the Satellites are set up — anyone but Cobblah himself, it seems. His conviction is remarkable, but it takes much more to make a mark on the big stage. It’s how Sellas Tetteh conquered the world a decade ago, and also how Fred Osam-Duodu and Emmanuel Afranie — in 1993 and 2001 respectively — almost achieved same. Ghanaians, who saw all three tactical geniuses at work, are convinced Cobblah isn’t doing it right and have expressed their reservations on social media.

Bar a brief surge in 2013 when bronze was won at the World Cup, the Satellites have experienced a post-2009 free fall, not winning another continental crown and missing out on the global showpiece twice. Surely, though, the desperation to catch a break doesn’t mean turning up in Poland in any shape at all – certainly not the current one.