“When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk!” Tuco counseled, as he looked over the sprawling body of an armed man who failed to pull the trigger, opting for a speech, long enough, for Tuco to pull his.
That was a scene from the 1966 Classic and one of my all time favourite movies ”The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”.
Morale of the story; get to work already, enough of the talk! At this juncture, I can almost hear Freda calling me an ‘old soul’.
Well, to all you ‘Freda-lites’ out there, I am sure you will understand the need to for such wise counsel if you witnessed the outcome of the 2014 World Cup draw on December 6 at the luxury resort town of Costa Do Sauipe in Brazil.
Ghana, our beloved country was given a tough draw, the kind that bookmakers usually tag as the ‘Group of Death’.
Hands on head (yes, people still do that) long faces, shaking of heads and gnashing of teeth characterized the aftermath of the draw.
This was then followed by a wave of denial about the competitiveness or ”death-ness” of the group with a faint attempt at dismissing the threat Ghana’s opponents posed.
“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best” was the rallying tune by fans, sang in base, treble and tenor.
That front however, belied the anxiety and apprehension felt by fans as Ghana’s prospects for advancement, more or less dimmed with the draw.
Keeping Ghana company in Group G would be Germany, 3 time world champions; European powerhouse, Portugal and perennial World Cup nemesis, USA.
While some Ghanaians were having nightmares about how Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo would “screech” and draw rings around the Inkooms and Affuls, I took a seat behind my laptop to dispassionately assess Ghana’s prospects in Group G.
The outcome was 3 fold; come on, you can guess. It was Good; Bad and yes, a little Ugly. Well, enough of the talk already, I am going to shoot. Make way!
Okay, so we can start with the good to lighten the seeming gloom. Over the past 2 world cups, Ghana has become sort of a bogey side to the USA; eliminating her in 2006 and 2010, beating her 2-1 on both occasions.
The USA thus represents Ghana’s realistic opportunity for 3 points, on which, momentum can be built.
However, when the 2014 version kicks off in the Brazilian city of Natal, Ghana will meet a USA side very different from the sides she met in previous world cups.
Ghana will meet USA 2.0, a ‘Germanised” USA.
Since Jurgen Klinsmann, a former German player and national team coach, took over in 2011, he has succeeded in transforming the USA into a viable attacking side, a side that can keep the ball and also know when to concede possession, suck teams in and catch them on the counter.
Everton’s goalie, Tim Howard, Roma’s Micheal Bradley and Schalke’s Jermaine Jones pull strings in midfield.
They are supported in attack by ex Spurs player, Clint Dempsey and Sunderland striker Jozy Altidor.
This year alone, the USA set a national record with 16 wins including the annexation of the Gold Cup.
Such is the threat posed by the USA. The Black Stars can counter this by not trying to beat the Americans at the tactical game, but rather to slow the game and beat them with a technique which is the strength of the Black Stars; put a man of Michael Bradley, who is pivot around which the American play revolves, and also keep an eye on Altidor whose physical presence in the box cannot be tamed with direct battles but a general organization in defense to cut space and deny him supplies.
Now that’s the way to shoot the Yankee cowboys down.
When you consider that nobody wanted Germany in their group, you will understand why Ghana’s Black Stars have their work cut out.
Once upon a time, Germany used to be a mechanical side that played with emphasis on organization.
Enter Jurgen Klinsmann (now with the USA). Klinsmann, revolutionized the Germany philosophy by adding a touch of technique to their efficiency to create a fusion that has become so ruthless.
On a good day the Germans can run rout and embarrass any side like they did at the 2010 World Cup, beating England and Argentina, 4-1 and 4-0 respectively.
However, a major deficiency of their new attacking philosophy is a lack of emphasis on defensive play, evident in 17 European sides conceding fewer goals than the Germans did in the qualifiers. An anomaly indeed!
The Germans are especially weak at left back where Dortmund’s Marcel Schmelzer and Hamburg’s Marcell Jansen have taken turns but haven’t convinced.
It is in midfield and attack that the Die Mannschaft, as the Germans are called, have thrived. With a core of European Champions Bayern Munich’s team, the Germans typically possess and switch quickly to direct and quick attacks especially through the flanks where Marco Reus and Thomas Mueller operate and occasionally through the middle where Mesut Ozil draws players to himself and makes defense splitting passes.
What can Ghana do to stop the Germans? Ghana has to stay organized and press high the pitch to stop development of attacks as well as double up on the wings to cut that channel of attack from the Germans.
Abdul Majeed Waris should also give Per Mertesacker, who is short on pace, a run around so Gyan can slot into the holes left behind.
Andre Ayew or whoever plays on the right should also exploit the left back frailty of Die Mannschaft.
It is interesting how people can puncture holes into other teams just to create a good feeling or hide their own deficiency.
Upon all those tunes out there by the fans, this one really strikes a discord. The one that goes like, “Portugal is a one man team”, in reference to Cristiano Ronaldo’s influence.
Well, this is one tune I will not dance to because it will be totally off beat. This assertion is totally flawed. F
act: it is true that Ronaldo wields great influence in the Portuguese team (He scored a third of their 24 goals in qualifying to Brazil).
It is also true that Ronaldo can single handedly pick a game by the scruff of the neck and change it ala the play off versus Sweden where he scored four goals in 2 games to eliminate Sweden. But who wouldn’t want to have a game changer in their team.
Everyone will fancy that. Indeed it is true of every championship winning team that, there was a game changer on board assisted by other talents in the team ala Maradona in 1986 and Brazil’s Ronaldo in 2002, who were assisted by the likes of Burruchaga and Rivaldo and co. respectively.
It’s the same for Portugal who have others like Fabio Coentrao, Pepe, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho, Nani etc to assist.
For Ghana to have any chance of stopping Portugal,, the wings where Ronaldo and his cronies operate, should kept under lock and key while the threat from Joao Moutinho and co. in midfield should be nullified by be crowding them out in a 5 man midfield with wingers who have added responsibility of shielding the full backs.
Now, amid all these strategies, Ghana must make it top priority to fix her porous defense; find full backs who can first and foremost clear their lines; find a leader who can organize the defense; as well as a goalkeeper who can dominate aerially.
A word to the wise is enough to dodge Tuco’s bullet!
follow me on twitter @niithesoccerguy
(Culled from 90 Minutes)