The Black Stars travelled to Omdurman for the return fixture of their Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Sudan with the knowledge that, just a draw will be enough to qualify for Africa’s continental showdown in 2022.
In the dying minutes of the 2nd half, Ghana conceded a goal to Mohammed Abdelrahman.
It was a very subpar tactical display from coach Charles Akonnor at the Al Hilal stadium.
The team lacked compactness especially in the midfield and during moments when the Black Stars had a counter attacking opportunity, the striking pair of Jordan Ayew and Caleb Ekuban were too detached from the other components of the team.
Here’s a tactical breakdown of both teams:
Coach Akonnor lined up his charges in a 4-4-2, a formation he seems to be leaning into as his desired for the Black Stars.
Fatau Dauda started in goal and had John Boye and Alexander Djiku as his center backs with Abdul Baba Rahman and Nicholas Opoku operating as fullbacks. Mubarak Wakaso and Afriyie Acquah were paired in midfield with Jeffery Schlupp and Tariq Fosu as wingers. Jordan Ayew and Caleb Ekuban were deployed as Ghana’s two attacking outlets.
The Black Stars started the game impressively but wore off as the first-half progressed. Ghana looked to have most of their threat coming down the flanks and when in possession of the ball, the two central midfielders who were quite restricted going forward, sat back.
Schlupp, despite playing as winger on paper occupied central positions on the field and this enabled Rahman to make forward runs. With Rahman moving upfield while Schlupp played through the middle, Wakaso occupied the half-spaces between the center-back and left-back. His job from this position was to feed Rahman who played a pass in behind for Schlupp making runs behind the right-back of Sudan.
This approach had its bright moments with situations where Schlupp and even Baba Rahman were caught in one-on-one scenarios against Sudan’s defenders as prime examples.
Another approach the Black Stars adopted to build-up was through the right where Tariq Fosu played passing combinations with Afriyie Acquah.
Acquah tried long balls behind the Sudanese defence for Ekuban to chase. This approach however proved not to be highly effective as Ekuban could not make much use of the two half chances created with this game plan and Acquah also played inaccurate passes on different occasions.
Jordan Ayew, who was paired up top with Caleb Ekuban was another outlet for the Black Stars. He operated as the more flexible of the two strikers as he sought to drop deep to link up the play with Wakaso and Acquah.
However, there were moments where Ayew held unto the ball for too long and lacked quality in his final passes.
One key problem from the attacking approach of the team was, the unwillingness of midfielders to hold unto the ball and drive through midfield to help the team move forward hence, Ghana had to over-rely on long balls which were more often than not misplaced.
In addition, the Black Stars were too flat going forward and failed to create enough chances and as a result, the team recorded just three shots on target – with two coming from set-pieces and the third, a strike from 30yards.
Defensively, Ghana was not impressive either and although they chose moments to press, that was not very successful and in cases they decided not to press, Ghana maintained their shape of 4-4-2 but that was also very flawed.
Sudan found it very easy to pick their way through the Black Stars defence because Ghana left too many spaces in their team and the midfield pairing of Acquah and Wakaso failed to protect the back four judging from the ease with which Abdelrahman, Al-Tash and Agab were able to receive the ball in half-spaces between the midfield and defence.
Sudan were successful in creating a one-on-one goal scoring opportunity for Abdelrahman after Al-Tash was successful in playing a pass beyond John Boye who was caught out in a 2v1 situation.
Ghana also allowed too much time on the ball for the Sudanese when they had possession and that eventually worked against them with the goal Sudan bagged in the final moments of the game.
Sudan, under the tutelage of Hubert Velud were deployed in a 4-2-3-1 formation but occasionally adopted a 4-3-3 system. However, whenever they had possession of the ball, they setup in a staggered 2-3-5 shape to help progress the ball.
In earlier moments of the game, the Falcons of Jediane looked to use long balls to build-up. As the game wore on, they set up to dominate the ball more and unlike the Black Stars, Sudan looked more comfortable and assured in possession, recording 53% possession at the end of the game.
The plan of the Falcons was quite simple; to keep and progress the ball with short passing combinations. Nonetheless, they did not restrict themselves to short passes and went longer when need be.
Though their build-up was quite slow and did not bother the Black Stars a lot, they posed problems for Ghana defensively with their crosses and their persistence finally paid off with their goal coming from a cross.
Defensively, the Sudanese were more proactive than the Ghanaians, giving no time to the Black Stars on the ball and applied more aggressiveness in their challenges.
The match genuinely lacked quality offensively and for unknown reasons, the Black Stars relented and failed to apply themselves to see out a draw at least and have now carved for themselves arguably a daunting task of qualifying for Cameroon in 2022.