Why Ghana cannot recreate their 2010 World Cup last eight showing in Brazil

Black Stars are set to play in Brazil at the World Cup

Black Stars are set to play in Brazil at the World Cup

Cameroon, in 1990, were Africa’s pioneers. Senegal, 12 years later, were one of the chief protagonists in the most unpredictable World Cup there has ever been. Both sides made it to the quarter-finals following superb efforts.

When Ghana repeated the trick four years ago, at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, it seemed like there was something more substantial about their performance.

There was none of the theatrical aggression and naivety that so characterised the Indomitable Lions’ summer of 1990. Nor was there any of the hapless defending that is often overlooked when considering Senegal’s outing in 2002—it’s easy to forget that had Uruguay completed their astonishing group-stage comeback (they were 3-0 down at half time but pulled it back to 3-3) there would have been no fairy-tale run to the final eight.

Ghana’s performance in 2010 can be considered Africa’s finest effort for two reasons.


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First of all, they escaped from a taxing first-round group alongside Germany, besting dark horses Serbia and Australia, after some dogged, professional and resilient performances. They may not have been as memorable as Cameroon or Senegal—although Asamoah Gyan’s late goals were something special—but they were altogether more “in control.”

Secondly, while all of Africa’s quarter-final three had the semi-finals in their sights, it was Ghana, more so than their continental cousins, who came the closest.

Had Luis Suarez not raised a hand to block a goal-bound header in the final minute of extra time, had Gyan’s subsequent penalty not hammered off the cross bar, had John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah not missed their spot-kicks, the Black Stars would have been Africa’s first-ever representatives in the final four.

They would have been heading into a semi-final against a fairly limited Dutch side…who knows what could have happened after that?

Ghana: What might have been?

Heading into the 2014 tournament, it remains to be seen whether Ghana can recreate their 2010 showing.

In principle, at a glance, considering the resources available to them, the Black Stars do not seem to be that far off.

In the midfield, they can boast of two Champions League winners in Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari. Kevin-Prince Boateng has enjoyed a career somewhere near the summit of the European game, while Kwadwo Asamoah is a midfielder second only to Yaya Toure in the continental standings right now.

Up front, Gyan is a figure as talismanic as he was four years ago, when his goals saved the day against the United States, Serbia and Australia. He may have taken himself out of the central narratives of the world game with a move to the United Arab Emirates, but Gyan’s goalscoring prowess remains undiminished, and he is a player who enjoys rising to the grand occasion.

The likes of Christian Atsu, Andre Ayew, Majeed Waris and John Boye represent a more-than-competent supporting cast.

There are two reasons, however, why Ghana may well struggle to better, to recreate or even to approach their fine quarter-final outing of four years ago.

The first is the fiendishly difficult group.

While Group D, containing Uruguay, England, Italy and Costa Rica, is considered to be the toughest of the opening pools, Group G is not too far behind.

The Black Stars open their campaign against Jurgen Klinsmann’s United States in Natal on June 16.

Both sides will be aware, privately at least, of their status as group outsiders and will realise that their fortunes this summer may well rest upon this opening clash. We can expect a cagey contest. Although, with Germany and Portugal lying in wait, both teams will know that even a draw leaves them standing on the precipice of elimination.

While Ghana’s struggles against Germany, Italy and Brazil in World Cups past do not bode well for their matchups against these two European heavyweights, the reality is that there is little contemporary material to examine how the Black Stars will fare against elite opposition.

Their recent friendly against Holland was an incredibly stodgy affair, with few Black Stars players performing well. This didn’t inspire confidence that the West Africans can match their taxing group stage rivals.

While Ghana, in 2006 and 2010, escaped from tricky first-round groups (featuring Italy, the Czech Republic and the United States, then Germany, Serbia and Australia) neither of those pools featured a secondary threat boasting a player as unstoppable as Cristiano Ronaldo.

The second major reason why Ghana may struggle to match their performance of four years ago is the imbalance of their side and the supposed mismanagement of coach Kwesi Appiah.

There are major concerns in defence, particularly in the heart of the back line.

Fatau Dauda and Adam Kwarasey are both decent stoppers, but the former was dropped by the Black Stars recently, having endured a spell of inactivity at club side Orlando Pirates, while the latter has been struggling with a thigh injury.

Of the last seven games, Kwarasey and Dauda have started three each, and even now, less than 10 days from Ghana’s opener, there remains some confusion in this most crucial of positions.

In the centre of defence, Jerry Akaminko has been the key man and has started all four of the Black Stars’ last matches, including both legs of the CAF World Cup Qualifying play-off against Egypt.

Akaminko, however, has been ruled out of the tournament, having injured himself after landing awkwardly in the dying moments of the friendly against the Netherlands. With Isaac Vorsah failing to recover full fitness in time for the tournament, Appiah is left with a straight choice between Boye, Jonathan Mensah and Rashid Sumaila.

All three have their limitations, and none can quite offer the ball-playing skills and composure that has made Akaminko stand out over the last few months. Ronaldo, for one, will enjoy facing whichever selection Appiah opts for.

Finally, there remains an absence of clarity in the midfield. Despite being stocked with fantastic options, it’s an area that the manager has often struggled to get right. He did so in the 6-1 first-leg victory over Egypt in Kumasi, but it is unlikely that a midfield of Essien and Muntari will enjoy such liberty and influence in Brazil this summer.


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Normally, Asamoah would set up stall in the middle of the park, be the rock upon which Appiah built his Black Stars elect.

That hasn’t happened. Asamoah, a victim of his own versatility, has too often taken residence on the left-hand side. His class means that he flourishes in this role, but he struggles to have the influence that he could if he was operating in the middle of the pitch.

If Appiah can find a compromise between the relative strengths and weaknesses of Prince, Essien, Muntari, Ayew, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Mohammed Rabiu et al, then Ghana might be able to trouble the giants in their group.

If the midfield malaise continues, then it may well be a swift farewell for the Black Stars.

READERS COMMENTS

  1. Boro says:

    Bam! ‘ major problem at the BS central defense’ otherwise avoidable. This team would have been the best crop of assembled players with numerous option at the bench as well as rotational option for the midfield and the attack Ghana has ever produced courtesy AA. However, the same cannot be said of our defense especially at the central part of the defense. The team can start with Adam Kwaresey in post, Opare at the right back and Afful on the left. The central pair of John Boye and Jonathan Mensah. Holding midfielders pair of Kwadwo Asamoah and Afriyie Acquah. Afriyie on the right and Kwadwo on the left. Put waris on the right, Gyan in the middle and Dede on the left of the attack and let Kevin Operate freely behind the attackers. The formation is 4-3-3 during attack to put pressure on the defense but quickly changes to 4-5-1 leaving only Gyan in attack as soon as we loose the ball. Waris and Gyan can switch or waris and Dede can also switch positions. Now Rabiu can replace Acquah on the right. Essien can also come in for Acquah in case experience is needed on the right in front of the back for or Sulley on the left for the same reason. In a situation where protection of any of the holding midfielders are needed Badu can come in especially when Ghana is leading comfortably and wakaso on the left or Atsu on the right for the same reason to protect waris and dede respectively. Jordan can also come in for Gyan. Essien can also operate at the right full back. However, the area where Ghana seems to have problem is our central defense where there do not seem to be many options at the bench all because of AA’s stubbornness. Incase of any injury the only option is Somalia.

    • OGYA says:

      Are you kidding me that this brainless coach is going to play Essien in the Central defense? I knew that was coming, He better win some games or else will have to move to London and stay there with his family. This acrophylis had every opportunity in the world to bring in either Vorsah or John Mensah to join the team but chose to honor his word to those players he took money from.

      Now the US team is licking their chops. If that happens to be his approach he is going to pay for it, because Essien is slower.

      • sugar ramos says:

        do you have to insult in order to make your point?respect the elderly so you can live
        longer.if your father is insulted like this would you be happy.i think your father should be ashamed of you. for your information vorsah and mensah are all nursing injuries and have not played for for some time now

  2. OHENENANA says:

    Our starting 11 at WC should be
    GK A Kwarasey
    RB D Opare
    CB J Boye
    CB J Mensah
    LB K Asamoah
    RM A Ayew
    DM S Muntari/M Rabiu
    DM M Essien/A Acquah
    LM H Afful
    RS K Boateng
    LS A Gyan
    Supersubs:
    M Waris
    C Atsu
    A Badu

    Essien should only play CB incase of injury or suspension Essien and Muntari should not start together we should have 2 partnerships Essien/Rabiu and Acquah/Muntari because we need one DM with expirience and leadership skills and another that is young and capble of runing for 90 minutes i put Afful as LM because he plays in midfields for his club and Asamoah plays LB for his club they are both fast players and can both defend and attack they can switch position any time during games this will be good to confuse the oposition Waris Atsu and Badu should be used as supersubs because they are players that bring speed to the game when they come in later in the game they have the energy to create chances that will lead to a goal if we play like this im sure we can beat The USA Germany and Portugal and go al the way to the Semi-Final or even Final we can do it they have been underestimanting Ghana we should make them regret it

    • Tommy says:

      Its very sad, four days to the tournament and you dont even know your starting elven. These are some of the reasons why we prefer the white coaches, Doya got his starting eleven during the world cup qualifiers for Germany 2006 and Milo also did the same for South Africa 2010 and now Akwesi Appiah has used more than 40 players but still dont know his best 11. Akwesi must buck up because Black stars is so dear to us (Ghanaians) goodluck black stars……

  3. Adebayo says:

    Well said! Both Boye and Mensah are fast but frequently brash. Akaminko has the coolness to play the ball out of defense and will be sorely missed. In midfield, Appiah is spoiled for choice. He seems not to have figured out a system that would bring out the best of his very talented midfield. Germany, for instance, has a team made up predominantly of midfielders. Lowe has found a system in which every midfielder can defend as well as strike!

  4. Africanus says:

    I like your presentation. I think it is spot on.

  5. African Consciousness says:

    Ghana can do better that they did in 2010 if they can embrace their Ghanaian born Coach and give him all the respect that they accord the foreign born white coaches. Coach Appiah got them to the finals with a lot of the Star players missing in action. Now the team is at full capacity. Adam Kwarasey is coming off a double championship win in the Norwegian league. Stephen Adams did really well in the Chan. Muntari, Kevin Prince Boateng, Kwadwo Asamoah, Michael Essien have all won championships, Dede, Jonathan, Badu, Rabiu, Inkoom, Daniel Opare were all part of the U20 World Cup winning team. Captain Asamoah Gyan has won the league championship in the UAE and topped that with the golden boot and is leading all of Asia with 29 goals, 10 goals more than his closest rival.

    This group of Black Stars are full of champions and winners. They have an all African Coaching and technical staff. They are playing in Brazil a country that is more African than any other in the Americas. If President Nyantakyi plays his cards right this could be the year that an African team goes all the way. All that is required is the inspirational leadership to harness these champions and transform them into a World Cup winning team. Love and respect your Coach he can do everything that the foreign coaches did. He watched them do it. He is Ghanaian and he loves the country just as you do. United Black Stars, “yes you can”, Go Black Stars! Long live African football.

  6. Kwabena says:

    I disagree with this article. The Black Stars is far far better in 2014 than it was in 2010. Ghana’s defence is good at static marking and we will stop the United States. JUST WATCH!

  7. pepeni says:

    Hahahahahaha……!!!!!!!
    @Boro, its “sumaila’ not “Somalia” ‘ei mass ni3″ Ghanaians loved football paaaaaa yi3

  8. Crusader7 says:

    I am backing Essien. He will prove his mettle. Ghanaians should stop emplying their early-retirement tactics.