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Sports Features of Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Source: Agyemang, Nana

Don't Panic!

The announcement that the Captain of the Black Stars Steven 'Tornado' Appiah may not participate in the forthcoming African Cup of Nations has left in its wake a feeling of shock and despair. To say that Appiah represented the "life blood" of the squad is an understatement as his contribution on and off the pitch served as the epitome of every footballer’s ambition and desire to become successful. His commitment and unquenchable passion to lead the Black Stars during the World Cup reflected the above average performance of the Stars during this tournament lifting Ghana to new heights within the FIFA Rankings for the first time in decades.

The fact that he will not be there is in itself a massive blow to the aspirations of the GFA especially of 'hosting & winning' the African cup of Nations, but from a coaching point of view is it really feasible for a Coach to rely solely on the services of a single player to rise above all others in motivating and leading by example to lift the African Cup of Nations in January 2008? Surely the answer must be a resounding no! Never-the-less the loss of Appiah is synonymous to that of a deep wound requiring major surgery but without many of the surgical tools at the Doctor’s disposal required to perform the operation.

Lest we forget Claude Le Roy has selected 40 players in a provisional African Cup of Nations list which provides him with the luxury of conducting a pruning down exercise in line with his selection criteria. Many critics believe that Claude Le Roy should have known his team by now and that his approach should have been more pragmatically streamlined, but isn’t this just a matter of opinion? Claude’s openness in deciding to take one last look at his options should be considered as a strength and not a weakness because instead of cowering under the pressure of the Ghanaian football loving public he has stood firm to declare that he has still undecided. The problem that now confronts him with the potential of confounding his judgement is the absence of Steven Appiah.

So where to now? Are we to apply a plaster where major surgery is required in the hope that this will deliver us from the competitive aggression of our 15 neighbouring combatants? Should we lay our hearts and minds open to our omnipotent father to pave a way for us to the fulfilment of the 'host and win' theory or dream as it may be or just simply depend on the man we appointed as the Technical brains behind the campaign to lift the African Cup of Nations. If you ask me a combination of all three options are necessary but with emphasis being placed upon the latter.

In seeking a replacement for Appiah, a technical appraisal must take place first and an informed decision subsequently taken after. The candidate must be robust, agile, versatile and enterprising with the ability to defend well and to launch an attack even better! To be honest no one candidate possess the skills and qualities I have outlined so Claude Le Roy will have no choice but to settle for a combination of four players in the midfield to compensate for the loss of one. In my honest opinion the decision is not an easy one but the best central midfield combination would be Sulley Muntari and Ahmed Barusso, with Laryea Kingston in his usual wide right position and Andre 'Dede' Ayew playing in the wide left position. If you are wondering where Michael Essien would play well…I think he is better suited to hold the central defensive position alongside 'the rock of Gibraltar' John Mensah. In addition irrespective of the combination Le Roy will consider to employ, let me once again advocate the inclusion of Daniel Opare and Harrison Afful in the right and left full back positions respectively. They will provide the Black Stars with strength in depth with their constant supply of balls into the penalty box of their opponents at will!

In making an assessment of our chances, expressions of despair at this stage about our chances of lifting the cup need not be articulated. Only a dispassionate view of our present circumstances must be considered against the background of the most recent Black Star performances especially in the Zenith Bank four Nations Tournament. Despite the fact that we won this tournament, there was still a lot to be desired with the overall performance of the team. In some instances I believe it is even safe to say that there were periods of non-performance, which were and still are of great concern, but at the same time are not totally insurmountable. The performance against Benin provided dividends that could have otherwise have been lost. But caution can not be thrown to the wind on the basis of that victory because it will be very difficult to claw ones way back into a match from a deficit of two goals even on a very good day at the office!

Let's allow due process to take its course and apply the benefit of the doubt to Claude Le Roy and Coach Sellas Tetteh without the application of unnecessary pressure and most of all lets not panic! I mean who said we are destined to win this tournament anyway, with or without the mighty 'Tornado'?!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.