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World Cup 2022: Ghana embracing chaos could carry them to Round of 16

12:53 WAT 29/11/2022
Ghana World Cup 2022
Otto Addo’s approach may be unsustainable, but the Black Stars are thriving amid the mayhem and will back themselves against Uruguay

Bodies everywhere. Last-ditch blocks. Theatrical saves. A bombardment of crosses. A goal-line clearance. And 10 minutes of added time followed by an incandescent manager at the end.

All that came after one team raced into a two-goal lead despite a slow start and lost that advantage before recovering to score the winner. Absolute bedlam.

Ghana may have been on the wrong end of a five-goal thriller at the ongoing World Cup last Thursday against Portugal, but they were the victors this time, beating South Korea 3-2 at the Education City Stadium.

Their opening two fixtures produced 10 goals, more than any side in the competition. This is especially impressive and exciting when you consider Spain’s head-start that saw the Red Fury hit Costa Rica for seven in one game.

Luis Enrique’s men played out a 1-1 draw with Germany on Sunday, meaning games involving the 2010 champions have produced nine goals, one short of Ghana.

While La Furia Roja recorded a record-smashing 7-0 result in their opening fixture, the five goals in the Black Stars’ defeat at the hands of Portugal produced more excitement as it ended 3-2 in the Selecao’s favour.

More goals for Spain against Costa Rica, but Ghana vs Portugal was rip-roaring. Those five goals came after half-time, too, further highlighting how Otto Addo’s men have thrived in wild circumstances in Qatar.

They played within themselves in the opening half against the 2016 European champions, failing to muster passing sequences of note or touch the ball in the opponent’s box. This changed after the break when the shackles were off, and they managed to get the talented Mohammed Kudus on the ball.

The Ajax man will be crucial to how far the West African nation progress at the finals and a brace on Monday cemented his status as their go-to attacker — a decisive performance that followed last week’s second-half showing in that Portugal loss.

After four halves of football, Addo’s men have flourished in three when there was little or no control.

They were unrestrained after halftime in their first fixture, perhaps motivated by the strange decision to award Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty, giving everything to equalise through Andre Ayew and throwing caution to the wind after Osman Bukari made it 3-2.

It could and should have ended 3-3, but for Inaki Williams slipping after stealing possession from an unsuspecting Diego Costa, who did not know of the Athletic Club striker’s presence.

Cameroon produced the competition’s first, and for now only, 3-3 result in Qatar — coming back from 3-1 down against Serbia on Monday — but Ghana should have had this honour had Williams not lost his nerve at the death against Fernando Santos’ crew.

On a wildly exciting day that had produced the Indomitable Lions’ fightback, the Black Stars almost let their two-goal lead slip. But they found another gear seven minutes after South Korea had netted twice in under three minutes, with their first shots on target in Qatar to edge ahead through Kudus.

Then came the onslaught. It was backs-to-the-wall stuff for Addo’s men, who did not have an attempt on goal after the Ajax man’s second of the game until the 83rd minute, a long-range shot from Salis Abdul Samed.

Their last shot on target ultimately turned out to be the winning goal, with any form of attacking expression replaced with throwing bodies to block shots, clearances away from danger to regroup, a Mohammed Salisu clearance off the goalmouth and staying alert to defend the Koreans’ glut of crosses.

Paulo Bento’s men delivered a staggering 35 open-play crosses as they looked to peg the African nation back but it was not to be.

Up next for Addo’s men is a grudge match with Uruguay. The 47-year-old tried to underplay a nation's wider feelings of revenge after events in 2010, and you wonder if his nose grew longer following that assertion.

“It was a really, really long time ago that this incident happened and I am a strong believer that if you don't seek too much revenge on these kinds of things sometimes you get the blessings,” said the Ghana boss after Monday’s 3-2 win.

“It will be very difficult just like every match. We said before the tournament started every game will be on edge, and we have to be at our best to beat them.”

Addo’s closing remarks suggest that Ghana expected these see-saw games in Qatar and they have undoubtedly embraced the mayhem. Now they need to produce one more huge performance against a nation they have loathed for over a decade to secure a Round of 16 slot.

Absolute chaos. Unbridled bedlam. This is what we signed up for.