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Opinions of Saturday, 26 June 2010

Columnist: Ananse, Kwaku

Technical Inferiority—the demise of the Ghana Black Stars.

Without a doubt, the Black Stars of Ghana play sweet, smooth-flowing, and brilliant football. It is just delightful to watch the twinkle, twinkle little stars shine at play. Their skills in ball control, passes and holding on to the ball are simply flawless. They can run circles around the best squads all day long. In these departments, they rate with the top outfits in the competition as I watch the matches. In most cases, I dare say they even surpass many great names in this team sport. Their passion to uphold the name of their beloved country is awe-inspiring. Being the youngest and perhaps the smallest team in body size and height, their fighting spirit is almost celestial. One can go on and on to list their accolades. However, it would be foolhardy to heap only praises and ignore the very glaring and obvious lapses that impede the team’s promise. The Stars can play beautiful soccer but have dire technical deficits that need correction before our next match. It will be too painful for the boys to work so tirelessly only to reap no rewards at the end of the day. For instance, Ghana lost to Germany for these observable lapses that went uncorrected from the beginning to the end of the game. I was livid and just going crazy in my seat anytime it happened. Consequently, I would reiterate that our technical staff led us down. Once the technical inferiority is put right, the Black Stars would be unbeatable.

The first technical lapse of the team has to do with our throw-ins. If the team, especially John Painstil who did most of the throw-ins on his flank, intend to throw the ball directly to the opponent, then why even bother to do it at all. With the Germans being taller and bigger than the stars, I wonder why he chose to throw the balls high up only to be headed by the opponents. I have observed that the best teams use throw-ins to gain possession of the ball. The throw their balls directly to the feet or body of their team members. In the stars case, throw-ins are opportunities to turn the ball over to the other side. This happened over and over again and must be corrected. The problem is that anytime we cheaply turned over the ball to the opponents, they seized the opportunity to mount an attack to the Star’s territory. In turn, it put undue pressure on the defense and the goal keeper.

Similarly, the goalkeeper was busy catching the ball from the many German shots emanating from our numerous turn-overs, as well as back passes from the Star’s defenders under duress. Again, it amazed me that out of about twenty or more kick-ins that Kingston took, he would shove his players forward and strike his hail-marys. A lot of times he punted so hard the ball would not touch any player, but float straight to the arms of the other goalkeeper. Those that fell short of the goalkeeper’s arms would be headed by the taller Germans or Australians who would gain possession of the ball and mount a counter attack to the Star’s territory. As I watch the matches and observe the best teams, their goalkeepers often find their free players to initiate their own attacks to the opponent’s territory. This mistake is the game changer and certainly the difference between our attacking machinery and the lack of goal scoring. Imagine if the stars controlled the ball some 25 or more times to mount attacks. As the Germans did, the more incursions they made into the Stars territory, the more possibilities they awarded themselves to score one goal out of the many chances. The stars could have done the same. I am sure they could have made use of one good chance out of twenty or more turn-overs. This needs to be corrected immediately if the stars are to progress to the next round.

Also, I have observed that in modern technical football, the wingers do not try at all times to score goals from very acute angles. Rather, they dribble the ball to the touch line to sway both the defenders and goalkeeper only to pass to a rushing striker to strike the ball home. Ayew displayed such creativity with the ball that Jonathan Mensah struck to earn a penalty. It happened again in the German game with the ball that Ayew struck to be deflected over the bar. These are technical details that the technical staff should bring to the drawing board and actually graphically teach the players.

Similarly, corner and free kicks should be approached with a lot of thought and skill. Our Black Stars perhaps believe that if you kick a free-kick hard enough, you may knock down the opponent’s wall for the ball to sail into goal. Contrary to such a popular notion among our Stars, modern free-kicks are taken with special skill and expertise. They usually bend the ball to awkward corners that goalkeepers usually cannot reach. Our Kingston tasted one like that with the Australians. It was an awful goal against a splendid goalkeeper of Kingston’s caliber. Our free-kickers should be trained in bending skills. It is not right to take free-kicks straight into the wall nine out of ten times. Also, corner kicks should not be aimed at scoring from such acute angels though there are limited possibilities. Corner kicks taken to the reach of goalkeepers are not properly taken. Corner kicks should be measured in such a way as to confuse the keeper and throw the defense into confusion. When well taken, the keeper cannot often decide whether to go forward of stay in the post. With such confusion, the attacking players have a leeway to beat an indecisive goalkeeper. I hope the technical staff of the Black Stars will look at these observations and make the necessary adjustments before our next match with the US of A come Saturday.

Many blessings to the twinkle, twinkle stars. Ghana and the whole continent of Africa, as well as many admirers around the globe wish them Godspeed.

Kwaku Ananse

Pittsburgh, US of A