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Sports Features of Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Source: Obour, Samuel K.

South Africa 2010: Where Is Quincy Owusu-Abeyie?

Opinions were unanimous on the night of December 4 when the world cup draw was made, that group D, which pitches Ghana against Germany, Australia, and Serbia is one of the most difficult of all the 8 groups. We are lucky not to have been drawn in the group of death, like it happened in 2006 when we ended up in a difficult group that comprised Italy, Czech Republic, and the United States. Ghana was not expected to qualify from that group. However, we went against world opinion to qualify to the second round, despite losing our first match by 2-0 to Italy.

Though we have a relatively easier group this time around, qualification to the next round of South Africa 2010 may turn out to be an illusion if certain pragmatic measures are not put in place.

The Black Stars have continually failed to perform at major tournaments, mainly because those at the helm of affairs of Ghana football invariably fail to select the right players for national assignments. A typical example was at CAN 2008 when the G.F.A ignored the persistent pleas of Ghanaian football fans to include more central defenders in the final team of twenty-three. Those fans had expressed their objection to the decision of the G.F.A and the technical team of the Black Stars led by Claude Le Roy at that time, to include only two central defenders in the team. They had sensibly argued that injuries and suspensions at the tournament to any of those defenders could prevent the Black Stars from winning the tournament on home soil. But the G.F.A and the technical team blatantly refused to take their opinions into account. The rest of the story is history.

This time around, the technical team of the Black stars must take the opinions of Ghanaians into consideration in whatever decision they make.

Though the Black Stars have qualified for the World Cup, we ought to unanimously acknowledge that the quality of football the team exhibited in the process is appalling; it is a far cry from what was exhibited at Germany 2006 and even at Ghana 2008.

Milovan Rajavac, the Black Stars coach has failed to live up to expectation in that regard. He lacks the ability to critically analyse matches and come up with good tactical variations and substitutions. And that inescapably explains why the Black Stars have had such a phenomenal fall from grace, falling from 14th in the immediate aftermath of CAN 2008, to 37th in the world.

Now, Ghana have failed to perform creditably in recent matches because the all our football is concentrated in mid-field. We have ignored wing football totally. The role of Muntari on the flanks is to run down the flanks and cross the ball into the 18 yard box for strikers to convert. However, we don’t see Muntari doing that. He rather drifts into the middle of the park where we have Essien and Annan already stationed, thereby causing overcrowding. The right wing of the Black Stars, also, is virtually non-existent. Stephen Appiah’s performance in that position over a couple of matches has been far from impressive. Instead of running down the flanks to cross the ball into the box, he, just like Muntari, drifts into the middle of the park, thereby denying Essien and Annan enough room to operate.

As things stand now, wing football in the Black Stars is dead. The irony of the situation is that Ghana possesses quality wingers such as Kowdo Asamoah, Dramani, Opoku Agyemang, and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie who would do better than what the likes of Muntari and Appiah are currently doing.

One of the major reasons why Ghana won bronze at CAN2008 was due to the phenomenal performance of Quincy Owusu-Abeyie in that tournament. That guy was simply exceptional. He brought speed, zeal, urgency and skill into the Black Stars set-up. He persistently troubled opposing defences and ended up being one of our best players in that tournament. He scored a great goal and made two assists.

His first assist was against Namibia where his precise cross from the right flank was expertly converted by Agogo for the only goal of the match and three points for that matter. His second assist was even more valuable; it was in the quarter-final match against the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Forty-five minutes into the first half, the Super Eagles were leading 1-0 from a Yakubu penalty. All efforts made by the Black Stars to equalise had proved futile. Then we were presented with a free-kick; Quincy Stepped forward and into the eighteen, he sent an impeccable cross which was beautifully converted with a powerful header to bring the scores level. It was a valuable assist Quincy made because if Ghana hadn’t equalized at that particular moment, we might have lost the match.

Not only did Quincy provide two great assists, he also scored a spectacular goal in the third place match against Cote d’voire. The Black Stars were losing 2-1; time was running out, and we lacked the creativity and skill to break down the Ivorian defence. Then all of a sudden, Quincy pounced onto a lose ball in the centre of the pitch. With incredible pace, phenomenal skill and relentless determination, he dribbled powerfully past four Ivorian defenders to place the ball beyond the goal keeper to bring the scores level. Ghana went on to win the match 4-2. Quincy’s performance throughout the tournament was phenomenal for someone who was playing in Africa for the first time. He brought speed, skill, and fluidity into the Black Stars set up and his general contribution to the Black Stars relative success of winning bronze can neither be valued nor measured.

Quincy, in my opinion, is Ghana’s best winger whether he’s playing on the right side of mid-field or on the left. Unlike Laryea and Muntari who lack pace, and love to play as central mid-fielders instead of playing as wingers, Quincy is serious minded, fast and direct; he perpetually runs down the flanks and delivers crosses into the box. Anyone who watched England’s 5-1 demolition of Croatia, and saw the performance of Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon, would appreciate the importance of a good winger. The Football Association would have to understand that by perpetually leaving out Quincy from the team, it is setting a bad precedence; Ghanaian-born footballers abroad would be apprehensive about playing for the Black Stars. They will be guided by experience of Quincy and others like him who have been mistreated by the Football Association. The F.A has tried its best to get the duo of Barlotelli and Danny Welbeck to play for the Black Stars, but both players have refused to have anything to do with the team. Both players know how Quincy and others like have been poorly treated. Needless to emphasize, no player wants to be used and dumped.

In a few days time, Milovan Rajavac will be naming his twenty-three man squad that will represent Ghana at the Nations Cup in Angola. And, needless to say, it is imperative that a fine player like Quincy makes the team; for not only has he been described by as ‘… special… full of power, pace and a bag of sumptuous skills’, he has also been in phenomenal form for Spartak Moscow this term, scoring very important goals in the process.

I’m sad, needless to say, that they same F.A officials, who moved heaven and earth to get Quincy to be eligible to play for Ghana, are the same ones who have capriciously turned around to neglect him. At just 23, he is one of our best prospects for the future. The aforementioned description by epitomizes this assertion. One only needs to watch his spectacular goal against Cote d’voire to conclude that he is, indisputably, a rare talent who is waiting to take the world by storm.

As a nation, we must ensure that the mistakes of 2006 and 2008 are not repeated. Situations where ‘one-legged men’ (like in the case of Shilla Iliasu in 2008) are taken to major tournaments at the expense of fully fit players must come to an end. The pain of Ghana2008 where we lost the semi-final match to Cameroon just because we couldn’t present a central defender and had to fall on our playmaker, Essien to defend is indelible; it is still fresh in our hearts.

It behoves on all stakeholders more so the F.A and the technical team, to put in place measures that will ensure that the Black Stars annex the Nations Cup at Angola. That would be the best preparation for the Black Stars ahead of the world cup in South Africa. Samuel K. Obour