Portugal vs Ghana: Five things we learned about the Black Stars

Ghana's match against Portugal

Ghana’s match against Portugal

It was a case of what might have been for Ghana, as they crashed out of the World Cup after being defeated by Portugal in Brasilia.

What might have been had the Black Stars not been placed in Group G, one of the tournament’s Groups of Death?

What might have been had they kept their nerve and remained resilient in the second half against Germany? What might have been had Kwesi Appiah had the bravery to build his team around the big performers, rather than the big reputations?

Perhaps most poignantly, what might have been had the Black Stars’ final group stage against a lacklustre Portuguese side, when all that was required was a win, not been overshadowed by the controversies of the day?

There has been good and there has been bad for Ghana this summer. Here’s what we learned from the Black Stars’ final match of the summer.

Build the Team Around Kwadwo Asamoah: 

It was notable that Ghana’s only attacking moment of genuine class against Portugal came on one of the rare occasions that Kwadwo Asamoah deserted his left-back role and sought to influence the proceedings in the final third.

Admittedly, Asamoah has thrived as a left-sided wing-back for Juventus, but for the Black Stars, his many creative talents ought to be utilised in more advanced areas.

He should be the rock upon which Ghana are built. We knew it before the World Cup, and after the misdemeanours of Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari, plus the limited influence of Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Mohammed Rabiu, we now know it more than ever.

Starting with September’s Cup of Nations Qualifiers, Ghana need to place Asamoah at the centre of the action and use his ability to drive through the heart of the park, as well as his vision, creativity and technical prowess.

Here is a worthy successor to the great central midfielders of Africa’s (and Ghana’s) past.

Time for a Meritocracy:

Ahead of the Black Stars CAF Qualification play-off double header against Egypt, no fewer than five high-profile players returned to the squad after long periods of (to varying degrees) self-imposed international exile.

It was no coincidence that, with a World Cup on the horizon, Michael Essien, Kevin-Prince Boateng, the Ayew Brothers and to a lesser extent, Sulley Muntari, saw fit to reaffirm their loyalty to the national side and return to the fold.

How could the manager, Kwesi Appiah, refuse the services of such a celebrated collection of players? He couldn’t, and all five were shoehorned back into contention.

This approach cannot help team morale, particularly when the return of these players means the omission of stalwarts such as Richard Kissi Boateng, Solomon Asante and Mohamed Awal.

Similarly, it fosters a climate of player power, where the egos rule the team and the manager and federation are held at the whims of the big names. Regularly, over the last few days, Ghana’s moves just break down when players see fit to go it alone, to take wild shots, or to attempt to trouble the keeper when a team-mate is better positioned.

It cannot go on, particularly when the stars bring no guarantee of success or when their volatile characters disrupt the side as much as Muntari and Boateng have done.

Hope on the Horizon:

Stephen Keshi’s Nigeria provide a perfect template of how a team-centric approach can work for an African powerhouse. One could even argue that beyond the “stars,” Ghana actually have more talented players at European sides upon whom they can construct their future.

Some of these “green shoots” were present in Brazil, although their lack of playing time was frustrating.

Majeed Waris was injured in the pre-tournament friendly against South Korea and wasn’t called upon for the first two matches. Recalled against Portugal, he struggled to assert himself and missed a gilt-edged chance in the second half.

He will improve, however, and should he find a positive club environment for this coming season, Ghana can expect great things.

Afriyie Acquah is a central midfielder who seems to have the lot, and despite their relative experience, it has been a surprise that Kwesi Appiah has opted for Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Mohammed Rabiu this summer.

Acquah received a run out against Portugal and should grow to become a permanent fixture in the national side, particularly following the likely departures of Boateng, Muntari and Essien.

Christian Atsu is already a regular first-teamer, but will only get better over the coming years.

African Stereotypes Can’t Be Shaken:

Normally, I rebel against the lazy journalism and cheap stereotypes you often find rolled out when the discussion turns to Africa’s national teams.

Unfortunately, however, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon have all, to varying degrees, lived up to these stereotypes over the course of the summer.

The Elephants demonstrated a naivety in offensive positions and aninability to manage the closing stages of a game. They would have advanced past Greece had they kept their heads and employed a bit of hard-nosed pragmatism in their final group match.

Similarly, Ghana were far too keen to score a third against Germany, and in the process, sent too many men forward. When the Black Stars did attack, they too often lacked cohesion and chose to go it alone rather than thinking about the moment within the context of the match and the tournament as a whole.

The continent’s goalkeepers have often been the brunt of jokes from superior others, and while Vincent Enyeama and Rais M’Bolhi have impressed at Brazil, Fatau Dauda was a little hapless against Portugal.

The Orlando Pirates man did, admittedly, make a few smart saves during the match, and his reflexes are excellent, but he was at fault for the Portuguese winner.

Throughout the match he demonstrated an inability to hold authority over his area and flapped at a succession of high balls.

The final stereotype that was unhappily fulfilled by both Cameroon and Ghana was that of the African teams disputing bonuses and being plagued by infighting.

Cameroon imploded spectacularly in their 4-0 capitulation against Croatia, while the Black Stars did, mercifully at least, keep their disagreements to the team hotel.

It was an unfortunate poetic justice, however, when John Boye was pictured kissing a bundle of dollar bills on the same day that his comedic own goal pushed qualification for the Last 16 a little further away from Ghana.

As far as Kevin-Prince Boateng goes, rarely has the image of a pampered, out-of-touch, self-seeking footballer been encapsulated better.

This trio of complaints should not become the caricatures they once were, but the 2014 group stage has confirmed that familiar failings do remain.

Gyan Among the Continent’s Greats?

Having equalled Roger Milla’s record for goals scored by an African player at World Cup finals, Gyan went ahead and broke it by heading home against Portugal.

While the striker’s club career has been carried off into the wilderness of the Garden City of the United Arab Emirates, he remains an electric, explosive campaigner in the context of the national side.

He was a match-winner for Ghana at both the 2006 and the 2010 World Cup, rising to the big-time occasion and proving himself to be a very able goal-scorer.

Few would doubt that he could feasibly become only the fourth player to score at four different World Cups in four years’ time in Russia, when he will be 32.

Despite his performances for the Black Stars, Gyan is rarely considered on the same level as Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, George Weah or Milla himself.

Should this new record now usher him into that elite echelon of African strikers?

READERS COMMENTS

  1. Papa Appiah says:

    I find some of your arguments quite strange for someone showing us the way forward. Which competent coach in the world would leave out the Ayews, Essien , Muntari and Boateng for Kissi Boateng, Awal and Solomon Asante, players you describe as stalwarts, but at what level. Players make mistakes and repent. It is the duty of the coach to build the team. You mention Nigeria as an example of good team building. But they just brought in Odemwinge and Yobo after long disagreements with the coach. I’m surprised you do not mention the tactical incompetence that was the bane of our team. We deserve a bit better from you.

  2. benny says:

    Papa Appiah,l agree with you mighty.To add to AA’S tactical incompetents,AA is calculated arrogant prick who believes in his own hype but in reality he is naive clueless Pimp.
    KPB probably insulted AA out of frustration
    Could AA for the sake of the nation let go.
    The cheek of ithe was to stay on and build for the future.What future?
    Why was Kwaresey replaced ?
    What was Adomah doing in the usa match?
    AA is divisive nepotism, favouratism freak..
    He should be sacked .

  3. benny says:

    Papa Appiah,l agree with you mighty.To add to AA’S tactical incompetents,AA is calculated arrogant prick who believes in his own hype but in reality he is naive clueless Pimp.
    KPB probably insulted AA out of frustration
    Couldn’t AA for the sake of the nation let go.
    The cheek of it he was to stay on and build for the future.What future?
    Why was Kwaresey replaced ?
    What was Adomah doing in the usa match?
    AA is divisive nepotism, favouratism freak..
    He should be sacked .

  4. Assemblyman says:

    REPORTS AND TRUTH FROM BRAZIL;

    I think am very much vindicated now.What didn’t I say about these folk;
    1.Kwesi Appiah
    2.Fatau Dauda
    3.Ali baba and the 12 thieves at the FA,,(Kwesi Nyantakyi and FA management team including Parker)

    I have been here in Brazil on my own tickets.I am here as a Ghanaian fan..Hence traveled all the way from Europe to support the blackstars.Unlike the NDC foot soldiers paraded to Brazil by Joseph Yamin and Afriyie Ankrah..
    With whatever we had seen in Brazil.Its clearly tells the chaotic situation we find ourselves as Ghanaians..With no proper leaders than self interest seeking hungry thieves.Who are in hurry to pocket the resources of the poor Ghanaian populations for themselves and families.
    I had confirmed the revolt at the camp on ghanasoccernet two days before it was widely publicized.Yet Asamoah Gyan came to deny it after being sent by his puppet masters to do so..
    AGYEMAN BADU & BECCA ; I can confirm to you that Agyeman Badu bedded Becca for real.The last time I heard about this girl was she has been married to her manager Kiki Banson some few years ago.The other time,I heard on peacefmonline radio that an unknown woman had hooted her at the Accra mall while she shopped.That, Becca was wrecking her matrimonial home.With such a history and you send this person to Brazil to be near the camp of the blackstars..Its rather unfortunate to have this happens ..Well,I stand to be corrected if they actually had raised any money for the national team as it was their primary task.But whatever I see in Brazil about these female ambassadors are clearly different.They were just sleeping around with anyone who can offer them money to shoot a video clip here in Brazil.And ask me ask you ,who is Agyeman Badu to bed Becca ? This tells the gross indiscipline in the country and supported by our leaders.
    This same Agyeman Badu went to gossip to Parker that,sulley muntari and kevin were discussing him.
    NANA McBROWN & MAXWELL:Enjoying a sort of honeymoon on the tax payers monies..sweet Jesus!!
    JACKIE APPIAH & AFRIYIE ANKRAH:I can duly confirm that Afriyie Ankrah had something going on between himself and Jackie Appiah .We saw this clearly at the fun park in maceio and other places.some of us thought he had wanted to bring just Jackie to Brazil to service him in bed.But couldn’t find any excuse than inviting John Dumelo,Ambulley,etc along as ambassadors.He has left his family there at the hotel and following Jackie.I knew this man personally from Swedru All Blacks days.Such a corrupt person he is,with Mahama appointing him to the sports ministry and closer attachment to the FA,I smelled rat.I knew something was going to happen with embezzlements and thefts.So I wasn’t surprised at all and have been expecting this to happen.
    KWESI NYANTAKYI :This man should do the honor to resign amidst infighting in the camp and match fixing allegations .The African doesn’t have any dignity nor self respect left.Its still a disgrace to compare to the white man to the black man.Its a shame to do so in this part of the century.But it should be very honorable for this man to resign to avoid obstructions in investigations on allegations met at him.Well,for the sake of corrupt malpractices,he is still at helm of affairs.where are we heading to as a country.hmm! It clearly seems our osagyefo Dr.Nkrumah died with his patriotic visions.So no one in the country is patriotic anymore.But ask this FA boss that does the oldest FA like the English and German ones pay appearance fees to any member of the non-playing bodies? The answer is absolutely NO.
    Kwesi Nyantakyi was leading in making player selections for Kwesi Appiah .i know this from camp .
    KWESI NYANTAKYI & FA SPONSORSHIP MONIES…I am surprised this man claim he used all FIFA’s $9 million participation fees on two friendly matches,hotels and air tickets ..what a ridiculous lie!!when Ghana played holland,they were hosted by the Dutchs from accommodation to food.almost everything was paid by them.They paid some monies to the Ghana FA as a result.
    The Korean game,I wasn’t sure .but even if Ghana had paid them to play in Miami.I am sure fans paid for tickets,tv rights were sold,sponsors paid to advertise on boards in the stadium including Hyundai ,the Korean FA official headline sponsors and a couple of others.If the Ghana FA had really organized this match,they rather should be benefiting after paying off the Koreans .so where are the monies ?
    Besides we had sponsors giving money to them from Ghana as well as corporate bodies. I talked to countryman sonko of asempa fm fame when I met briefly with him in Brazil.i learned from him that monies raised from those corporate bodies were around the region of somewhere 2-3 million dollars.lets say the money was 2.5 million dollars in addition to the 9 million dollars from FIFA .both totals 11.5 million dollars excluding ones given headline sponsors like GNPC,GLO,CENTAURO and GOLDFIELDS.
    So with all these monies ,why did they have still to depend on our president for monies??
    Something is not right mates ..
    KWESI APPIAH: I never wished any bad luck for him.but like i had said,there’s going to be a repeat of AFCON 2013 in Brazil.We as pan Africans like to see an African coach for our national team.But in any day I will choose konadu over Kwesi.konadu can understand and play good tactics.i saw this in the previous CHAN tournament.
    Kwesi Appiah was being controlled by the management team over fielding favorite players.The architect behind such an act were Kwesi Appiah and Sani Daara .I read our dear coach saying he is not considering a resignation.well,Kwesi I expect you also to do the honorable thing like your name sake the FA president.Kwesi Appiah has had the chance to care take the senior team for 2 years .he knew his first 11 while playing the qualifiers but sad he was lost during friendly games and World Cup matches where it mattered most.I have an Ukrainian mistress in Napoli,Italy.although she works as a magician and could foretell the future by reading cards,I never consulted her over Ghana’s chances.common sense should tell us that we will never make it from our group.i had clearly said so from the beginning before they went to holland ..because our preparations were poor neither did we have a competent and honest coach.thats the truth .
    KP BOATENG ,SULLEY MUNTARI & KWESI APPIAH: well I can confirm to everyone of you here that,these boys were completely not at fault .I read from two media sites said kevin and sulley fought themselves at the team camp.This is never true .Sani Daara because of his stomach is doing a false propaganda work in Brazil as an FA PR.KP never insulted Kwesi Appiah,the man is just a pathetic dramatic liar.he is just a silent liar ..I am here in Brazil ,I was close to the camp and it’s no true of this story. I am very sorry that the Ghanaian public is being misled .it was Kwesi Appiah who had attacked Kevin with insults.All because I learned he didn’t find it comfortable or pleased with KPB questioning his failed tactics against team USA in the German media .Hence had to use a way to get rid of him..unfortunately ,this is what he could come up to sack KPB contrary to the report heard.
    ON SULLEY,he was objecting to corrupt and exploitation practices by the management committee on players.No one should believe he went just mad at camp to attack everybody ..already they were tension between himself and Parker .as a result of Agyeman Badu’s gossiping to Parker that sulley and KPB were talking about him.hence the misunderstanding leading to the fight later at the meeting.
    FATAU DAUDA: many Ghanaians finally got their calls to drop him right after yesterday’s game.I thought he said could stop Ronaldo,I guess he rather stopped himself at the World Cup.Kwesi Appiah ‘s arrogance finally paid off..I won’t blame Dauda for anything ,he didn’t select himself into the post,one coach did that and the person is Kwesi Appiah .

    NDC FOOT SOLDIERS MADE BLACKSTARS SUPPORTERS: I have already started campaigning for them to return to Ghana.Brazil is a hell of a place to seek greener pastures.i bet they will rather meet drier pastries than greener ones.Those of them intending to remain here do so at their own peril.they shouldn’t even attempt hoping to cross those many borders in hope to reach the Mexican border to the USA.they should at least learn some geography before thinking of committing to such a suicidal journey .i learned from their base that some of them were intending to try this journey.HMM!In Nicaragua is one of the worlds dangerous roads on the mountains.there is a lot of fatal accidents and death recorded than anywhere else in the world.it is a steep mountain where many busses fail to climb because of break failure and risk dying .this is one of the main roads to reaching North America from the south .i knew some Ghana people who tried this sort journey from Brazil to Mexico and then USA .many got stuck in panama while others died on the road.one of the people who made it was Rev.Isaac Ofori of Christian IPS in both Accra and Koforidua ..I am keep advising but some are listening whiles others are not..if you have a relation here in Brazil with such an aim..Advise him or her to return home to Ghana ..God’s time is the best!

  5. PITO says:

    papa Appiah dont waste your breath. The writer at GSN has gone to the dogs this past days..I will not be surprised if someone has fed him up a little bit. Only he knows.
    You forget a time when GHana lacked players during the CK Akunnor era and Nigeria was thrashing us. This era Ghana has so many players and instead of us hiring a competent manager we are destroying it. It will pass. Players dont stay young for ever. Afriyie Acquah of today may become the Essien of tomorrow and ironically we will sit all that experience he has on the bench to play the new “Afriyie acquah” whilst citing his arrogance. And the team suffers and we talk about “building” a new a team.
    Essien, Muntari, Gyan, Kevin Prince Boateng, Andre Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah and Norway first choice goal keeper Kwarasey, all franked by promising youngsters in Atsu, Jordan Ayew, Richmond Boakye Yiadom, Abd Majeed Warris, Agyemang Badu. NOW TELL ME What team are we trying to build? we have NO COACH!!!

  6. Sean says:

    I also I agree with papa! it is very sad with these talented players lol. compare to US team. our coach let us down twice. to me the best current local coach we have which he is capable to lead black star is Sellas Tetteh, he has the skill to read a game and make good changings and select right people. What did Kwaresey do wrong to be change? a good coach maintain his best squared for second time and consider his tactics and open net as well. We’re really hurt about the coach with his some of his decision. God bless Ghana.

  7. Pastor Canada says:

    Ghanaians should have patience with the coach. As for the players, their behavior put our dear country in very bad light. Nevertheless, as a way forward we should try to rehabilitate the players we have. My advice is that the authorities should try to patch up with Sulley Muntari. If you watch the games he played, he was very committed. Muntari’s problem is in his inability to control his temper. As a player there is no question that he works his socks off for the team. As for Kevin Prince Boateng, I think the earlier we forget about him the better. The guy is only interested in raising his pedigree by using the the Black Stars when he sees fit. Asamoah Gyan is a great player. he should not make money his prime motivation. It would be better for Ghana and the player himself if he will leave the Emirates and join some top club to make a name for himself and mother Ghana. God bless Ghana

  8. maubs says:

    If we want black stars to get better then the sports writers must also do their part. It is unfortunate that a press man would call kisi what and solomon what stalwarts? please. how many times have i not read here how some young boy will be our saviour so when that young boy abandons team work ethic or put simply love and respect for his mate by deciding to be selfish and go for glory we say african players are naive. niave what ? go ask england what useless adulation of young players has done to their national football side long term.Some of us support sulley, essien, kpb because they were as a result of their age able to be prepared to sacrifice future call ups to make a strong point which unfortunately was the wrong time. With time some of our young players may even become higher profile than kpb, muntari etc would we sack of all them too at that point? i read people saying local players should have been sent to the world cup and i remark here we go again. local players could not beat Libya or win trophy but can beat teams at world cup? who organises meetimgs in the morning before a boxing fight with a top boxer or athlete in the morning before a major competition? you will think at that point players are focusing, resting, praying or chilling as they go through their plan for the game. But not us we hold meeting where officials even get to trade punches with players. what nonsense. why do you think that Jacquet, Arragones, Del Bosque, the celebrated Italian coaches, Dutch coaches succeeds with national teams. They coach club football successfully for a long long time. Young managers becoming successful at national team level? they usually play till they are 40, have the experience too of being coiached by not one but at least three very well known managers cue Mourinho and you have Van Gaal and Bobby Robson etc. that effoum jounalism kisi what? which seems to be what influences the admintrators of football is not going to help us too going forward