Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh (Egypt): Because of my mighty hand, he will let them (Ghana) go to the promise land (Brazil); Exodus 6:1.
Well, not exactly what the scripture said, but a play on the scripture on social media to capture Ghana’s Black Stars annihilation of Egypt’s Pharaohs 6-1 in the first leg of the 2014 FIFA World Cup final play off at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi last Tuesday October 15, 2013.
The score-line was absolutely not expected and even die hand Ghanaian fans are still pinching themselves upon the realization that the result, more or less puts Ghana, one foot in Brazil come June 2014.
Egypt was expected to push the Black Stars all the way, but at the end of the day, the encounter looked like a complete mismatch.
Before the game, there were a lot of doubters about the ability of Coach Kwesi Appiah and the Black Stars to overcome the Egyptian threat.
I belonged to that group, primarily due to prior events before the match. Suffice it to say, I got served humble pie by Coach Kwasi Appiah and the Black Stars.
Now, as you may be aware, these pies, figuratively, aren’t supposed to taste good, but I will take them gladly as I continue to dissect the outcome and what factors led to the resounding victory.
So, be you a doubter or believer, I am sure you are still intrigued about how the Black Stars masterfully made mummies out of the Egyptians. Here, take a seat as I present to you the mummification of the Pharaohs.
Egypt’s obscure shape
One of Egypt’s Coach, Bob Bradley’s hallmark as a coach is his tactical astuteness; his ability to think and tweak his tactics per his opponent. On Tuesday however, Bradley overthought his tactics; he put out an Egyptian team in a 4-3-3 without a conventional striker.
In essence Bradley had 4 defenders and 6 midfielders using Mohammed Aboutrika as the false nine.
Getting into Bradley’s head, he obviously wanted to win the midfield battle by crowding out Ghana’s midfielders and use pacy wingers to break and draw in Aboutrika or Mohamed Salah who would switch roles intermittently.
Unfortunately for Bradley, Egypt was no Barcelona who play this system to perfection, rather this formation played into Ghana’s hands.
Ghana had gone into the game without its first choice central defensive pairing of John Boye and Jonathan Mensah.
The pair of Rashid Sumaila and Jerry Akaminko was a makeshift one, playing together for the first time, and Ghanaians feared the worst.
But with Egypt offering no direct threat, Akaminko and Sumaila had time to warm into the game and could even afford a couple of mistakes while they were at it.
Their confidence grew and they dealt with the few runs of Egyptians into the Ghanaian defense area.
Akaminko was so free; he had the luxury of even joining the attack as evidenced in the lead up to Ghana’s fourth goal when Akaminko supplied the cross.
On hindsight, Bradley will realize he should have rather pressured the Ghanaian central defense to open up another channel of attack since the other channel through the wings had been completely nullified, with Kwadwo Asamaoh and Andre Ayew doubling up to assist Daniel Opare and Samuel Inkoom defensively. So, from the get go, Egypt’s obscure shape did them in, just as the inability of their midfielders to either shield or create; primarily due to the resourcefulness of Ghana’s double defensive midfield pivot.
Essien’s and Muntari’s Tank
To express appreciation for commendable work done, the English would usually say ‘I doff my hat off to you’.
I am tempted to borrow those lines to salute the shift Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari put in on the day, but the English lines won’t do justice to that recognition, so permit me to do a literal translation; “Essien and Muntari, metu ky3 mamu wai”.
When I initially saw this pairing in midfield, I cringed.
Cringed, because I thought pairing Muntari and Essien, who have both lost a bit of pace, might not cope with the physical demands of a modern defensive midfielder and might be overrun, especially when Egypt had crowded the midfield.
But Essien and Muntari showed that sometimes wits and maturity in the game trumps youth.
So, while Essien wisely picked his moments to drive forward and control the tempo, Muntari sprayed the pitch with well measured passes while also cutting the space and time the Egyptians could have had on the ball.
Their performance goes to reinforce the argument that experience in the game as well as the clout and fear factor could be game changers, because at certain points in the game, it seemed the Egyptians were simply overawed by the aura of the 2 super stars in midfield.
Clearly, there is still a lot left in Essien and Mutari’s tank, from which Ghana can draw on going forward.
In the words of my senior colleague Kwabena Yeboah, I have severally lampooned and vilified Coach Kwesi Appiah for his inactions in the past.
But surely, it was all in good faith and when he gets it right, I must give credit.
For having the courage to trust Fatau Dauda and give him confidence to keep the post after his shaky outing the last time round; the foresight to pair Essien and Muntari in midfield knowing that their experience and wits was the key; the tactical nous and courage to risk shifting Daniel Opare, a natural right back to left back to counter the threat of Mohamed Salah, an ambidextrous player; for being on his feet the entire game to ensure that the Stars kept their shape and defensive discipline, I can only say to Appiah, well done indeed.
Majeed Waris’ pace and movement which caused ripples in the Egyptian defense, Gyan’s growing proficiency in front of goal, as well a total team effort made the Stars look really good.
However, going into the second leg, the euphoria of this victory shouldn’t mask the other shortcomings on the day.
The defense as a unit could use a bit more of organization as well as Fatau being more efficient in dealing with aerial balls.
These will be very critical in the second leg. “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands; take heed that he does not fall” 1 Corinthians 10:12. Can I get an Amen!
email@example.com, follow me on twitter @niithesoccerguy