By Thierry Nyann
Ghana-Egypt Part I was set to be a classic encounter never to be forgotten, yet the Pharaohs failed to turn up while the Black Stars lit the show with a stunning display on home soil.
The 6-1 thrashing of the north Africans came quite as a surprise to many who were expecting a close match between two countries that had won 11 Africa Cup of Nations titles between them.
Egypt still have some pride to recapture in the return leg in Cairo. Goal looks at some of the tactical changes coach Bob Bradley may have to implement to avoid another horror show.
Stop Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari
The two experienced central midfielders have played these big matches more times than their compatriots and are thus well equipped to suffocate Egypt’s midfield. In the first-leg encounter, Essien slotted into a deeper role to plug any gaps left in defence while Muntari hurt the opposition with great runs and incisive passes that caught the Egypt rearguard by surprise. He spent less time in his own half and was more box-to-box in his style. The Chelsea enforcer thus sat back, whilst the AC Milan midfielder raided forward to link play. Muntari was allowed to get forward by Essien’s increased discipline and broke out of midfield to a good degree of success. If these two are stopped, the inception of Ghana’s attacks would be hugely dealt with.
Mohamed Salah should make direct runs
Mohamed Salah created a couple of chances from his direct runs which caused the Black Stars a lot of problems in the final third. He is capable of making a stale attack look more purposeful. With the ball at his feet, he always kept the home fans biting their nails with some deft touches. Bradley would have to make him attack from the middle instead of dropping to the left flank if Daniel Opare is maintained at left-back. The fullback had the better of the forward in each of their clashes on the day. If Salah is to keep his discipline in the middle of the park and attack from that position, the fragile defensive setup of the Ghanaians would be left exposed.
Aboutreika must attempt more defence-splitting passes
The one goal scored by Egypt on the day as against Ghana's six was served up by a trademark pass from the losing side's creative spark, Mohamed Aboutreika. He played a well-hit pass to free Salah who run past Rashid Sumaila to almost find himself in a one-on-one against Fatau Dauda. Instead, Sumaila shoved the forward hastily to earn the guests a penalty from which they scored. Egypt's No. 22 is very adept at playing in these passes to create havoc in opposition territory. Had the Egyptians created more chances through their prolific legend, they might have been meditating on a more favourable result going into the reverse.
Wael Gomaa must keep Gyan at bay
Many criticised Gomaa for his uncompetitive display which gave Ghana's attacking pair, Asamoah Gyan and Majeed Waris, a field day. The Al Ahly centre-back should focus his energies more on the Al Ain striker than on Waris. The latter proved just why defenders need pace in the modern game by over-running Gomaa most times in the match. Gyan, who played in the hole behind Warris is rather more easily defended against and Gomaa must commit to him in order to stop both.
Egypt must play with more intensity
All expectations laid on Egypt ahead of the first-leg died after just five minutes when the Ghanaian forward line breached their defence twice. Gyan had previously hit a weak shot but the second effort was too strong for struggling goalkeeper Shefir Ekrami. All that watched the match and paid attention to the tactical discipline of the Egyptian team noticed one unfavourable trait: sluggishness. The whole team was inexplicably reluctant to meet the demands of a crucial World Cup qualifying game away from home and now have an uphill task of defeating their opponents by not less than five unanswered goals to stand a chance of qualifying. Egypt should put pressure on the Ghanaians and play with confidence in their own backyard.