Tag Archives: Ghana

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.

South Africa Match Observations: Quarterfinals, Part I

Some random observations after the Quarterfinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

Netherlands 2-1 Brazil: Both teams looked to put together sustained passing buildup through the center early, while Brazil further looked to established their physicality. You be sure that with both these teams you are going to get great ball skills. Unlike Slovakia, Brazil did a much better job of taking advantage of the soft center of the Dutch midfield and backline as Felipe Melo sent a long through ball directly to the front to Robinho who one-timed it passed an approaching Martin Stekelenburg to get Brazil quickly on the board within ten minutes. As a result the tempo on both sides went up as both teams opened up and attacked vigorously. The Netherlands began to find space and make diagonal runs in the Brazilian half. Brazil exhibited a mental toughness most of us didn’t think they possessed. Surprising transitional speed by Brazil, who were able to transition back in numbers on defense even on Dutch counterattacks. Better shots on target by Brazil. The Dutch were making headway into the attacking third, creating free kick opportunities and taking cheeky set pieces. After the half the Dutch did a better job of curbing the Brazilian attack by challenging their patient buildup in midfield. Brilliant equalizer by the Netherlands as Wesley Sneijder gets on the end of a back pass from Arjen Robben on the right flank and sends a nice looping long ball into the goal mouth that keeper Julio Cesar couldn’t get on the end of because he was being interfered with my Felipe Melo. To their credit Brazil did not panic, continuing their patient sustained passing. Clearly Brazil was rattled, though, as the Dutch played with a lot more confidence and got into the Brazilian penalty area with regularity. A Dutch corner resulted in a score on a Sneijder header in the box. After that Brazil lost their discipline and composure. Felipe Melo’s cheap foul in the 73rd minute resulted in a red card, leaving Brazil with only 10 men and dooming any hopes they had of evening the score. For the first time ever Brazil lose when leading a World Cup game and go out in a most uncharacteristically ignonimous way. The Dutch pick the right time to finally get by Brazil in the World Cup. It’s too bad either one of them either side had to go home at this stage. In the end, the Netherlands deserved this.

Uruguay 1-1 Ghana a.e.t. (4-2 p.k.): Two entirely different approaches to football on display in this matchup: Uruguay’s tactical discipline and direct counterattack and Ghana’s athleticism, speed, explosion and individual achievement. Good anticipation by Luis Suarez, who managed to beat the Ghana offside trap on several occasions and get on the end of service to take quality shots on goal. Early on Ghana’s rearguard was less organized than in previous games, and keeper Kingson seemed to be suspect in net. Fantastic creative linkup play by Diego Forlan, going back to the half touch line, bringing the ball forward and finding open players in space (specifically Suarez) in the final third. A couple of quick strike opportunities primarily by Kevin Prince Boateng and Asamoah Gyan almost got Ghana on the board, and even though they were content to let Uruguay maintain the majority of possession, Boateng and Gyan got more confident attacking the final third, stretching Uruguay’s defense. Ghana was able to use their speed to stretch Uruguay’s midfield and defense so much that Sulley Muntari shot on goal from about 40 yards and scored in first half stoppage time. Confident if not refined direct attacking from Ghana in the second half as both sides went back and forth, neither spending a lot of time in the middle third. Forlan finally gets Uruguay level with a laser shot on a direct free kick that swerves in from 25 yards that Kingson totally misjudged. Both teams attacked with abandon then; Uruguay more on the counter, Ghana more or less taking advantage of open space and hoping for a defensive mistake. It just became a function of which defense would bend but not break. Much better attacking and quality shots on goal in extra time for Ghana, who got into the box with regularity and made Uruguay work to keep the ball out of their own goal. A handball in the Uruguayan net led to a gift penalty kick in the 122nd minute of extra time for Ghana and the win with no time left, but the golden opportunity was lost when Gyan missed a rocket of a shot off the crossbar. It’s too bad this game had to go to penalty kicks; both teams deserved better than that. After that, you just knew because of karma that Uruguay was going to make it through. A cruel exit for Ghana, who have only themselves to blame for failing to go through to a place no team from Africa has ever been in the World Cup (and still hasn’t).

A decidedly good day of football!

— daveydoug

South Africa Match Observations: Round of 16, Part I

Some random observations after the First Knockout Round:

Uruguay 2-1 South Korea: Quick attacking movement from both sides from second one. Neither team were going to waste time waiting for counterattacks; both Uruguay and South Korea put the pedal to the medal, spread the field and took long, direct passes upfield into the attacking end. Both teams were very effective in the midfield, but Uruguay was a lot more solid in the back (Uruguay quietly went through the group stage without giving up any goals). Diego Forlan was on target early, not letting grass grow beneath his feet. The first counterattack for Uruguay resulted in a Forlan cross behind the Korean backline to Luis Suarez on the right, who one-timed it into the Korean goal. After that South Korea got a lot more disciplined going forward, looking to buildup their attack with sustained ball control. Uruguay exposed holes in the Korean backline, spreading them thin on the flanks with their furious counterattack and ability to switch play like nobody else in this tournament so far. Uruguay showed fantastic ability to close down the Korean attack in the midfield.

After the 30th minute Korea began to take quality chances on the Uruguayan goal. Park Ji-Sung was a monster on the left flank, using his speed to get the ball forward and showing a deft touch getting the ball to the forward players in the final third. You had to figure that one or both of these teams was going to get tired due to the furious pace of the game by both teams. Slightly more accurate long-range shooting from South Korea. Furious attacking by Korea after halftime, putting Uruguay’s backline under siege. For whatever reason Uruguay took their foot off the gas, letting Korea dominate possession in the attacking end. Park was now playing more centrally and much more forward as a target man in the box. No panicking from the Koreans, they were finally able to get the first goal past Uruguay this tournament on a poorly defended set piece, setting up Lee Chung-Yong to finish the rebound in the 68th minute. Finally getting their attacking mojo back, Suarez scored with a brilliantly sublime shot on the right upper corner off a set piece rebound in the 80th minute. Fantastic attacking match from both sides. Madd Props to Uruguay for a tactically proficient match that they grinded out for the win. And Big Ups to South Korea for always showing great workrate and never giving up.

United States 1-2 Ghana: Mistake giveaway in the midfield by Ricardo Clark followed by the failure of the USA backline to close down gave Prince Boateng an easy goal in the 7th minute during the run of play for the first time in this tournament. Ghana did a good job of controlling the midfield early, even disrupting the USA attack before it could get to the final third. Decidedly uncharacteristic buildup by Ghana, which resulted in them having the advantage in possession and sustaining it going forward. Not very tactically smart approach by the USA, who wrongly decided to try to match Ghana’s speed and strength. Bad day for defensive/holding midfielder Clark, who had his pocket picked early and got a yellow on a hard challenge only minutes later. Great anticipation by Ghana, who also showed an ability to chase down lose balls and get back in numbers in front of their goal to defend a counter. Benny Feilhaber came on in the second half for the USA and the distribution got much better, sending diagonal balls inside if still not spreading play wide with any regularity. Tactically the USA got better chances on the attacking end. Big break in the 62nd minute when a defensive breakdown by Ghana led to a hard tackle in the box on Clint Dempsey resulting in a penalty converted by Landon Donovan.

After that the game became a war of attrition; a lot of back-and-forth through the center with both teams closing down the ball carrier. In extra time, once again on a long pass into the front Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra couldn’t decide which one was going to close down Asamoah Gyan, who picked the pass out of the air and put a laser past Tim Howard. Ghana just went about killing time by playing keep away and flailing around on the ground on phantom injuries to close out the game. The USA went to the well once too many times, giving up early goals way too often to be able to come back from. A winnable game for the USA that they should not have lost. Proof positive that mistakes in the back can be fatal and send you home. A shame, really, because the USA clearly has the talent to hang with anybody but clearly lacks a certain mental toughness. Ghana’s strength and ability to press was the difference.