Goal's guest writer analyzes the Black Stars' collapse on Monday and identifies what could be done to strengthen the side going forward
Abdul Muftawu Nabila
Ghanaians’ hearts were left broken on Monday night after the Black Stars lost their opening game against the USA at the ongoing Fifa World Cup.
TRAUMATIZED | Ghana's back disappointed an entire nation
Ghana - with a population of roughly 25 million - stayed up late to watch the boys take on the old foes. Ghanaians' hopes were dealt a blow early enough, however, with American skipper Clint Dempsey scoring under just under a minute at the Estadio das Dunas.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah later described the start his team had as 'a disaster' and perhaps rightly so, yet he should have known that the Americans - after being beaten by the Stars at the two previous Fifa World Cups - were wounded, hungry, and ready to roar. The goal rattled Ghana, but they settled quickly and soon found their rhythm. Eventually Andre 'Dede' Ayew pulled parity in eight minutes from the end, but US substitute John Brooks left it late to send his countrymen into frenzy.
“In Ghana we eat and drink football and I know what my people are going through now," said former Ghana international Samuel Osei-Kuffuor after the game.
Even from a layman's perspective, it's hard not to blame coach Appiah. Personally, this writer believes he was tactically and technically bested by USA's Jurgen Klinsmann, his opposite number. The errors were evident from the very start.
In the starting XI named, Appiah showed preference for youth and exuberance over experience. The choice of Jordan Ayew over Kevin-Prince Boateng particularly raised many eyebrows.
Boateng is reported to have questioned Appiah's decision not to start him. Given that he [Boateng] brought a more potent edge to the attack when he did join the fray, any such criticism seems quite justified.
Boateng's entry caused the Americans all sorts of problems. He forced them to sit back, and enjoyed brilliant interplay with his colleagues upfront, essentially dragging Ayew who, until then had largely been a passenger, to the party.
Considering that maintaining Michael Essien as an option in defence was possibly the reason for dropping Leicester City's Jeffrey Schlupp from the final 23, many were perplexed not to have seen the 31-year-old among the starters to provide the void in defensive authority created by the omission of John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah; a handicap highlighted by the fact that the central defence pairing of Jonathan Mensah and John Boye was at fault for both goals conceded on the night, with the latter singled out for being too assured of his own capabilities.
Even worse, Appiah dared proffer the reasons for resting the likes of Boateng and Essien post-match: that he wanted to keep the pair until the USA were tired. No matter how often he explains himself; it doesn't make much sense, does it?
Tactically, too, Appiah was clearly a beaten man.
Christian Atsu, often promising in attack with his movement, left right-back Daniel Opare isolated with regard to defensive duties and also struggled to get any meaningful crosses into the American area. Ayew [Jordan] also chased shadow all night and should have been taken off earlier.
Furthermore, playing Kwadwo Asamoah among the back-four was always going to be counterproductive. That the Juventus star's talent, quality, and creativity was so wasted at left-back earlier at the most recent edition of the Africa Cup of Nations should have informed Appiah. Though at left-back against the USA, Asamoah was obviously Ghana's livewire going forward. He should be utilized more effectively in subsequent games.
And then there is the side's over-reliance on striker Asamoah Gyan for goals. The Al Ain man was barely given any breathing space on the pitch by the USMNT backline. To his credit, Gyan did work hard, yet only had an assist to show for his efforts.
All isn't lost yet, though.
Appiah should shore up his arsenal to ensure his charges rise to the occasion against Germany and Portugal. Ghana are typically known to be slow starters and do stand a good chance of recovering.
We might be down, but hardly out.