After defeat to Morocco, the Black Stars hosted their Ivorian neighbours at the Cape Coast stadium, in a game where the media and fans alike were expecting the Black Stars head coach, Charles Akonnor to make some big calls.
Abalora was dropped, for Ati-Zigi who pulled off a wonderful save in the dying minutes of the game to preserve his cleansheet.
Besides Akonnor’s capability in making the big decisions, here are some five things we noticed and learned.
Akonnor still needs time
The Ghanaian coach has been under lots of criticism with many Ghanaians of the view, the 47-year old ‘is not good enough’ for senior national team responsibilities, and results might have sustained their point.
The Black Stars performed abysmally in Akonnor’s opening games, not just losing four of his first six games, but also playing poorly in those matches – the team failed to weave the ball out from defence, defend as a unit and create chances amongst other failing factors.
However, in the last two games the team seem to have turned a new chapter in the early days of Akonnor and of course, Patrick Graveraars.
Against strong African teams in Morocco and Ivory Coast, the Black Stars showcased discipline, structure and organization – other factors they seemed to lack at the onset of Akonnor’s tenure.
They have held their own against big figures of African football, and despite the defeat to Morocco, gave a good account of themselves.
Akonnor is still not totally out of the woods, as he is culpable of leaving substitutions to the last minute.
Ghana still clueless from set-pieces
Despite the organization and little improvement from the team, Ghana have been very poor at set-pieces. Set-pieces are arguably the easiest ways, to score a goal in football and Ghana have been very disappointing at them since Akonnor took over.
Against the Ivorians the Black Stars had 4 set-pieces – counting from the 25th minute – and wasted all of them. There was another wasted one as early in the 4th minute as well.
The Black Stars wastefulness has largely been down to poor execution of these set-pieces. Kudus and Jordan Ayew especially have been very disappointing in their execution.
Black Stars needs a number 9
Asamaoah Gyan’s absence from the national team due to obvious reasons has left a big dent in Ghana’s forward line.
Jordan Ayew has assumed the role as Ghana’s go-to striker, but he is not entirely the type of profile needed upfront.
Jordan is the type of player who likes to drop deep, and with Andre also looking to drop and receive the ball to feet, the Black Stars attack is always short-sighted and lacking width.
Jordan is not a poor striker but he is not the traditional type of striker, as he operates more like a 9-and-a-half.
Impotent firepower – again
All the recent discipline and organization without the ball displayed, has not been replicated at the other end of the field.
The Black Stars have failed to flatter in attack, even in moments where the midfield and defence have succeeded in weaving a way out of pressure.
The team hasn’t created a lot, and also has not looked sharp enough on the offense. Passes are either left short or over-hit, with not so much of an output from the attackers.
This has been a recent running feature of the senior national team, and that feature was evident in Cape Coast.
Daniel Amartey leadership
In a team where most old heads have been eased out of the team, leadership has been sort of an issue, as many new and inexperienced faces have come in.
Dede Ayew, Mubarak Wakaso and maybe even Richard Ofori have recently, been the individuals looking to take responsibility and push their teammates. And the absence of any of these three has left the team spineless.
Amartey made his return to the team after a torrid time with injuries coupled with struggling for game time at club level.
However, the defender has been a constant in the Black Stars improvement as a defensive unit, and as if that is not enough, the 26-year-old took control of teammates at the back against Ivory Coast.
He could be seen barking out instructions to his center back partner of Djiku at first, and Ganyiu who replaced an injured Djiku. Besides controlling his fellow defenders, Amartey was also loud in instructing his forwards on the particular kind of runs to make, before his attempts at through and over-the-head balls.
It cannot be determined if that show of leadership was upon instruction from Akonnor, or just a piece of good initiative taking from Amartey, but that leadership is genuinely a welcome sight.
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