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Sports Features of Monday, 9 October 2006

Source: Anyidoho, Koku

Stars Still Shining

If for any reason some of us thought the performance of Stephen Appiah and his colleagues in Germany was something from the magic wand of a Cinderella-like fairy godmother, the last two outings of the Black Stars must be enough of a pointer that what happened in Germany was more than a fluke.

By no stretch of the imagination can one consider Japan and South Korea to be toddlers in the game of football and for the Black Stars to have held their own against such formidable opponents means that the team is definitely going to get a lot of necks turning in their direction.

In the case of South Korea, the back-to-back defeats they have suffered at the hands of the Stars should be a source of worry to them, and a source of pride to the Stars for making it two wins on the trot against a Guus Hiddink led side that in 2002 almost made it to the finals of the World Cup.

Suffice it to say that the 2002 team is not what Korea can boast of today but we are looking at the corporate entity called Korea and not looking at the individuals that make up that entity - and that has been, is, and would be the case at all times.

I think a lot of credit must be given to Kwasi Nyantekyi and his outfit for getting the Stars to test their strength against Asian giants such as Japan and Korea since it is only such high profile friendly matches that would either expose the weaknesses in the team or hang high the strengths, and enable the team to build on its strengths and deal with its weaknesses.

Particularly because the Black Stars are automatic qualifiers for CAN 2008 because Ghana is hosting the tournament and would not have to play the qualifying matches, engaging in lots of high profile friendly matches is going to be the only way for Claude Le Roy to introduce what it is he is going to introduce into the game of the Stars and get the gentlemen to understand what he wants them to do with the ball anytime they get onto the pitch.

Talking about Claude Le Roy, I am going to be a bit hesitant in giving the new gaffer the thumbs up for the two wins as it is practically impossible by my estimation to say that the coach had any significant impact on the output of the players.

For sure, the two wins are going to be firmly tucked under his belt but as stated, I think I would hang the victories around the necks of Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, Richard Kingston and the rest of the squad, than to praise Claude Le Roy to the high heavens when I know that he just took over and has certainly not had enough time to bring whatever technical and tactical competence it is he has to bear on the team.

For me, one good thing is the fact that almost 90% of those who defended the colours of the nation in Germany are still part of the team and indeed it is that maintaining of all the nerve centers of the team that must have resulted in the impressive outing of the Black Stars.

In the past, as happened after Burkina 98, Ghana/Nigeria 2000, and Mali 2002, when almost the whole team was disbanded, it is really a good sign to notice that post Germany 2006, the team is virtually intact.

Certainly, the team gave a good account of themselves in Germany and it was always going to be difficult to disband the team but I guess I must still give credit to those who have kept the team intact since that is the only way we can make optimum use of our boys.

Indeed, the more the players play together, the more they would understand themselves and jell together as a compact side.

In post, we still have a safe pair of hands in Richard Kingston and with a defensive set up revolving around John Mensah, ?The Rock of Gibraltar?, the way ?is their front? for them to improve with every game.

In midfield, the Stars have the pivot around which the team revolves and that is where the strength of the team lies.

The attack, as has been the case for a while now, is still the problem area.

With the erratic strike rate of Asamoah Gyan, Mathew Amoah out, Razak Pimpong not what one would call a striker we can hang our entire hopes on, and with the likes of Junior Agogo and Patrick Agyemang now attempting to show the stuff they are supposedly made of, the team has a big headache in its arrowheads.

Indeed, as a keen observer of the game, I would only be impressed with Claude Le Roy as the new gaffer of the Black Stars if he is able to solve the goal scoring problem because the other departments of the game are quite solid and I don?t think it would take Le Roy to teach the likes of Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, Sule Muntari etc., what to do with the ball.

So, over to Claude Le Roy and what he can do to solve the goal scoring problem of the Black Stars.

All in all, we have a Black Stars that is shining and we can only hope and pray that things get better for the team to bring back the glory days of yore.

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