By Ackah Anthony
Zambia national coach Herve Renard and his Chipolopolo charges must be ardent believers in playing mind games and firing ‘psychological missiles’ to unsettle opponents in very tight situations.
When the chips were down in deciding which country from Group D in Africa would earn the right to engage in the play-off, the Zambians injected a great measure of dirty tricks into the atmosphere. With a determination shaped solely by the desire to be at Brazil 2014 at all cost, they said all sorts of things about Ghana to win the sympathy of CAF and FIFA to shift the crucial game from the Baba Yara Stadium to a neutral venue outside Ghana.
Trumped-up allegations of all colours from intended attacks on the Zambian team to the refusal of Ghanaian authorities to allow their aircraft to land at the Kumasi Airport, were all put out in the international media. In the end, though, whatever they set out to achieve turned out to be a wild-goose chase as nothing came out of their protests at the time of the game.
By the 2-1 victory the Black Stars came out with, the Chipolopolo bubble burst, leaving them wondering what had become of their huge ambition to turn the Baba Yara Stadium into a waterloo for the Black Stars in their brave attempt at a third consecutive World Cup appearance.
With all that the Zambians represented gone with the wind, we now have to do a very serious post-mortem of the match and ask some tough or unpleasant questions. We may even have to reflect on the journey this far and ask ourselves whether we can take Brazil 2014 by storm like we did at Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.
It’s true that football is about goals and victories, and so it can be said that by beating the Zambians we did what was most important. However, if truth be told, there is no disputing the fact that the Chipolopolo were a more coherent side, tactically disciplined and were just unfortunate to be the losing side.
It was heartbreaking to see how the Stars were exposed in some fundamental aspects of the game when it mattered most. We committed too many faulty passes; the defenders were largely sloppy in the basic requirement of marking the Zambians in our area, and this was what led to the Chipolopolo fetching a consolation in the closing stages of the game.
The current Black Stars squad is among the best we have had in years in terms of talents in depth. We have them all round, but there has been something missing in our game since Equatorial Guinea/Gabon 2012.The beauty of our game with which we enchanted the World at Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 can’t be felt again, honest to God.
Watching the Black Stars play these days can lead to an unnecessary pounding of the heart because of intense pressure and uncertainty.
We can’t go to Brazil next year and repeat the performance we put up at South Africa 2013 without being embarrassed in the most humiliating manner. Even before we go into the play-off between October and November, there is the urgent need for the technical team to work hard to get the team into an all-conquering shape.
We boast of brilliant players in the Stars team today who compare with the finest players anywhere in the world. It’s up to the technical team to bring out the best in them. That is a must if we are not to be overtaken by events in the march towards Brazil to be counted among the most exciting football countries in the world.