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Sports Features of Sunday, 24 January 2010

Source: obour, samuel k.

Ghana versus Angola: Soldiering On Against All Odds

On a good day, the Black Stars of Ghana can defeat any side in the world. The team’s 2-0 defeat of Czech Republic at Germany 2006 (in a match they could have won 5-0), is an incontrovertible example. Like the typical British weather, however, the team is so unpredictable and can lose to the worst team the very next day. The Black Stars 5-0 loss to Saudi-Arabia in the aftermath of the world cup gives credence to this assertion.

The year 2010 has begun on the bad note for the Black Stars; injuries have persistently plagued the team, depriving it of quality and experience.

Prior to the start of Angola 2010, Ghana was regarded as one of the favourites by pundits and football analysts. However, having played unconvincingly in two matches, the same pundits who had tipped the Black Stars for glory have suddenly changed their minds, claiming that ‘the Black Stars lack experience’; ‘Ghana lack strength in depth’; ‘Ghana just don’t have it’. One cannot blame the aforementioned analysts for their cynicism of the Black Stars. The reality is that the team is severely under-strength. The absence of first choice players like John Pantsil, Mensah, Annan, Essien, Appiah, Laryea Kingston, and even Muntari has deprived the team of vital quality and invaluable experience. The current team, as proven against Cote d’Ivoire, lacks the quality to compete against some of the continent’s best.

The preceding observation notwithstanding, it ought to be acknowledged that the current team is made up of young lads who have the will and determination to perform. And we aren’t forgetting the adage which says: ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’

The Black Stars line up against Angola on Sunday and already pundits are tipping the host nation to win. This is understandable considering Ghana’s current predicament.

Presently, Angola have a better team than Ghana; moreover, they are hosts of the competition and will be backed, come Sunday, by fifty thousand vociferous fans. The substantive captain of the Black Stars, Stephen Appiah has conceded that it is going to be a very difficult game for the team. ‘Every game is a final, and one strike you are out.’ The former Juventus man said. ‘But they (the Black Stars) have to keep believing in themselves, and fight to the end in every game’, he added.

The injury situation may well turn out to be a blessing in disguise. In the absence of players like Muntari, Essien, Mensah, and Appiah who hitherto had been irreplaceable, Young men like Dede Ayew, Kodwo Asamoah, Agyemang Badu, Isaac Vorsah, and Samuel Inkoom, have held the fort quite strongly. They have stepped into the shoes of their senior colleagues quite comfortably, and are soldiering on. Personally, I don’t doubt their ability to prove pundits wrong by going all out, with good technical direction to lift the trophy.

Angola versus Ghana is a do or die match. Some Ghanaian fans and journalists in Angola have been assaulted by Angolan security forces; some have had to visit hospitals, while a few have had to return home. This is an indication that the Angolans intend to use all means, including systematic intimidation off the field, to win against Ghana on Sunday.

On the pitch, Angola coach Manuel Jose is definitely one of the best on the continent. In Flavio, our defence comes up against the best striker in the tournament so far. Ghana’s ability to defeat Angola will depend on what strategy Milo has in place, not only to neutralize Manuel Jose’s tactics, but also to keep a deadly goal scorer like Flavio at bay throughout the ninety minutes of play. The Black Stars will need much more than determination and will to progress. They will require Milo to give them technical support in terms of how he does his substitutions and varies his tactics in the course of the game, and in terms of how he motivates them psychologically when things aren’t going well. We are cognizant of the fact that our team is relatively inexperienced, no thanks to injuries that plagued the team, and Milo who overlooked proven players like Agogo, Derrick Boateng, and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, in the run-up to the competition. These are players who would have provided us with some quality and experience at this stage of our campaign.

In spite of these setbacks, however, Ghanaians are giving Milovan Rajavac our undivided support and goodwill. We hope this serves as a motivation that will propel the team to victory against Angola. We pray for good-luck and protection of our players from further injuries, as we soldier on against all odds to reoccupy our rightful position as ‘champions of African football.’ Go Black Stars go, Ghana is solidly behind you! Samuel K. Obour samuelkwason@aol.com