By Theophilis Sakyi
With the benefit of hindsight, Kwesi Appiah’s squad selection and tactical choices in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations as a whole were slightly odd. It was well documented there was a full-back problem before the tournament.
He chose to take two natural right backs, John Paintsil and Harrison Afful but only one natural left-back, Kissi Boateng who he seemed to have no faith in. Afful actually provided width very well from the left-back position but when it became pressing to move him to right-back due to injury and the coach had no faith in his only real natural left-back, but ended up moving one of his most creative players (Kwadwo Asamoah) there, then problems are bound to happen.
SOLID ON THE LEFT | Afful has been immense in this tournament
It was surprising David Addy was not selected for the tournament or Standard Liege’s Daniel Opare who although struggled in the first half in the qualifier against Malawi applied himself well in the second half to put in a fine attacking display, so Afful did not have to be moved to right-back in the first place.
AGE OLD PROBLEM
Then there was the old age problem in midfield. Rabiu generally played well as the deepest player in the Black Stars midfield shielding the back four well and picking up midfield runners like his senior Anthony Annan would, however, the problems were ahead of him. Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, who played in a slightly more advanced position in relation to Rabiu was given a box-to-box role which proved ineffective and he was particularly undisciplined and uncreative. It would have made more sense for Asamoah as he has defensive know-how and can also provide cutting passes from midfield - killing two birds with one stone. A player such as Afriyie Acquah would have provided a better platform for the attacking players ahead of him since he can also beat the press of the opposition.
INEFFECTIVE ROLE | Badu seems to be getting it wrong often
Further forward, although problems were less glaring there were still balance problems. Christian Atsu, who was ineffectual in the first game because Badu kept making the same runs as him performed well in matches against Niger and Burkina Faso with his intelligent runs, passing and silky dribbling. He can be effective from both flanks as well. Mubarak Wakaso was also effective in his role behind the striker and on the left in various games as he put in Henderson-like shifts with added coolness from the penalty spot.
The problem, however, was who was on the other flank when Atsu was not on the pitch. Bristol City’s Albert Adomah is a very traditional winger, almost too traditional and is often on the periphery of games and often the quality of his runs was not good enough. If Appiah really felt he needed this kind of player, are relations with Quincy Owusu Abeyie so bad they cannot be overcome?
UNRELIABLE | Gyan's pace seems to have gone and his role is now unsuitable
Asamoah when playing in the band of three behind Asamoah Gyan was often frustrated with the lack of service from holding midfield so ended up dropping deeper and deeper. As mentioned earlier, it probably would have been better if he himself had played in a deeper position. The absence of Andre Ayew is well documented but his brother, Jordan’s non-selection was also surprising as his runs from wide areas into the box could have added desperately needed goals.
The Gyan of three years ago could be left isolated with barely any support and be relied upon to run the channels and hold up the ball. Although he is still capable of some quality combination play, his pace seems to have gone and this role is now unsuitable for him but he is still being asked to perform it. Emmanuel Clottey with his far superior pace would have been more suitable or Boakye Yiadom more so since his all-round ability trumps both players mentioned before.
Ghana do have the tools to succeed at this stage and with exciting players coming through such as Acquah, Baba Rahman of Greuther Fürth, Frank Acheampong, Torric Jebrin, Rashid Sumaila and Yiadom, it is up to whoever is the manager for the next World Cup qualifier to use them correctly.
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