7. Ghana

What Went Right?  Arguably the fastest, strongest and most athletic side in the tournament. This was the linchpin for their entire playing philosophy and approach. Ghana played with a defense-first mentality, and then they counterattacked in a more direct, one-dimensional, east-west fashion. Used their strength and speed to take on players one-on-one as much as possible both in possession and not, rely on individual ability as much as they could. Neither attacked in numbers nor dropped back a lot of players in defense, indicating they transitioned from offense to defense quicker than anybody in this tournament. Scored most of their goals on penalties and opposition mistakes and mental lapse more than anybody in the tournament and was the primary reason they got this far, so this was a side you simply could not make a fatal error against. Good long-range shooting. Goalkeeping was outstanding. Ghana was one of four teams that was the recipient of a very favorable draw on their end of the playoff bracket.

What Went Wrong?  Lacked any sort of vision or creativity, which is why they had to settle for a very direct attack. Couldn’t control the midfield, orchestrated a concerted or sustained attack, or get into the box to save their lives. Had the athletes to take advantage of space and positioning but just didn’t. Very one-dimensional team that didn’t make effective use of the flanks and didn’t make diagonal runs. Through balls, crosses and service were more a result of defensive lapses and mistakes than by design. Ghana wasn’t very good at set pieces. Worst of all, they were the recipients of the cruelest way to exit the tournament, especially when you consider how favorable their draw was on their end of the playoff bracket.

Who Stepped Up To The Plate?  Asamoah Gyan, while not able to get into the box with regularity, made quality shots on target from long range and made a few of them, and other than that infamous miss against Uruguay was one of the better spot-kick specialists. Kevin Prince Boateng was arguably their best player, making things happen in the midfield and finding the forward players with regularity. Andre Ayew and Kwandwoi Asamoah  stepped up with their consistent passing in midfield. Anthony Annan had the most to live up to replacing all-world midfield orchestrator Michael Essien, out with an injury; he filled in capably. Isaac Vorsah and John Menseh seldom lost their shape and anticipation in the center of defense. Richard Kingson was just invaluable in goal; he saved their bacon on way too many occasions.

Who Didn’t Show Up?  Fullbacks Hans Sarpei and John Pantsil were virtually useless. I’m still not sure Prince Tagoe played on this team. The bench was a rumor. Why it is they couldn’t find  a place in the starting XI for Sulley Muntari, Jonathan Menseh and Matthew Amoah is beyond me. But by far the player they missed the most was Michael Essien, the best midfield distributor/orchestrator on the planet. His ability to control the midfield, linkup and service the forwards, trail into the box and get score with regularity were sorely missed and probably would have been the difference between crashing out in the quarters and getting to the semis.

How Was The Coaching?  About what I’ve come to expect from Serbian coaches, who tend to sacrifice any kind of creativity for more basic and simplistic approaches to football. Milovan Rajevac was no different. This side was tactically sound and played to their speedy and athletic strengths, but I suspect a more adventuresome coach offensively could have gotten this side to the semis under these favorable circumstances, Michael Essien notwithstanding. That said Rajevac’s strict and rigid tactics got them to the quarters, so I really can’t complain.

Did They Finish Where They Were Expected?  Well, somebody from the African continent had to make a run. I think most people thought it would be the Ivory Coast. I thought it would be Nigeria. We all were wrong.

Now What?  If they aren’t going to employ a Ghanaian coach, then Ghana might want to consider somebody west of eastern Europe. Or maybe from South America. Ghana has the talent to be a lot more than a one-dimensional team. A South American, western European or central European coach could probably get that out of them.

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