By Prince Narkortu Teye
Ghanaian writer Prince Narkortu Teye looks back at Ghana's shambles at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
An impressive 2-2 draw with eventual winners Germany in what was touted one of the best games of the tournament had seemingly shot Ghana high up the favourites list for a round of 16 spot, after a 2-1 loss to the USA in their opener.
And Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal were to be the patsies. However, a lacklustre showing twinned with a series of camp agitations at the Estadio Nacional meant the Black Stars would be heading home at the group stages for the first time, following a 2-1 reverse.
Reasons to be fearful
Ghana’s major problem for the past couple of years has been technically related. Even before his appointment, Kwesi Appiah had been widely criticised for lacking the necessary skills to manage the many high profile players he was to have at his behest.
If there had been one ugly truth about the Ghanaian players, it had to be that many of them have little or no regard for indigenous coaches and developments over the past few months only buttresses the fact. Andre Ayew was the first to strike, only to be mimicked by Milan’s Sulley Muntari; both showing unsporting behaviour following substitutions during the qualifying matches.
And at the World Cup, the unfortunate bad behaviour was to rear its ugly head again; Kevin-Prince Boateng, this time, the unfortunate culprit in a series of spats that would eventually lead to his suspension from camp on the day of the match against Portugal.
Muntari, rather notoriously, made the headlines once again for assaulting a team official leading to his untimely suspension from camp. Adding the aforementioned to Michael Essien’s refusal to warm up during the Portugal game and the well-dcoumented bonus woes only underlines the lawless jungle the Blacks Stars camp had become.
Reasons to be cheerful
If there was any positive from the 2014 debacle, it had to do with the magnificent 2-2 draw with the Germans who would later go on to become world champions. It showed, that on a very good day, Ghana is capable of rubbing shoulders with the very best.
Germany, notoriously ruthless, failed on only one single occasion to pick up full points en route to their triumph and the Black Stars, the only team to have scored twice against Die Mannschaft, are the reason behind this. First round elimination made nonsense of that feat but the positive – that Ghana have come of age – should certainly prove useful in future endeavours.
With the likes of Christian Atsu, Andrew Ayew, Majeed Waris and Kwadwo Asamoah set to be nearing their peak by the next World Cup in Russia, quality personnel should not be one of Ghana’s problems come 2018.
For a country widely known for its peace and harmony, utmost anarchy in a little over two weeks in Brazil proved an alarming paradox. That had everything to do with delays in payment of player appearance fees coupled with shambolic arrangements.
Since the tournament ended players such as Boateng and goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey have publicly lamented the lax manner with which things were run by the FA. Loss of focus, missed training sessions and suspensions were the side effects of an ugly fall-out from these poor arrangements.
After two earlier, more successful appearances at the World Cup, an air of complacency seemed to have cropped in but after the latest rude awakenings, sorting out player financial packages coupled with explicit, organised arrangements is one virtue the FA would (hopefully) gladly befriend.
Lessons not learned
For two consecutive tournaments, Ghana has had to play their most creative player at a rather unconventional position at left-back. Kwadwo Asamoah’s showing in Brazil, rather agreeably, was a solid improvement upon his shaky outing at the 2013 African Cup of Nations. His latest performance was impressive but the stark reverberation on the team’s total output left much to be desired.
Breaking up defences with exquisite splitting passes and individual dribbles have become one uncommon ingenuity in the current set up. The likes of Atsu and Andre have both struggled to plug into that role and Boateng’s latest dull outings coupled with his suspension only compounds issues. The onus had, over the years, fallen on Muntari to orchestrate from deep but try as he may, consistency is one accolade he would be really lucky to be acclaimed with.
Even at left-back, Asamoah’s artistry anytime he moved up field became a rare benevolence, finding Asamoah Gyan on one such occasion for Ghana’s only consolation against Portugal. With the latest setback, it may be about time Ghana brought back Asamoah into a position in which he can flourish.
Is the manager safe?
After being rewarded with an unpopular two-year contract extension encompassing a whopping 83% increase on his previous deal despit early elimination from the World Cup, who wouldn’t feel secured?
Much to the dismay of many, Kwesi Appiah, together with the FA, has successfully shifted the blame for Ghana’s woeful performance onto the sports ministry for failing in their financial duties which led to the uproar in camp. However, Appiah may apparently be sitting on a time bomb as nothing short of gold at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) would save his blushes.
Without any doubt, the next AFCON sits highest on Ghana’s wish list. With many back home still brooding over the performance in Brazil, nothing but a fifth continental title after 32 years would bring back smiles.
The most arduous task would be to lift the now battered spirit, build a new winning mentality without Muntari, Essien and Boateng and foster a new team chemistry with only six months to Morocco. If that could be done, 2015 may prove the perfect launch pad for Ghana ahead of Russia 2018.
Next big thing
Majeed Waris, Jordan Ayew among others, have all come onto the fray but it’s Chelsea’s Christian Atsu who wields the magic stroke. After a stylish entry into Ghana football when he bent in a sweet curler for Ghana’s fourth on his debut in a 7-0 win over Lesotho in 2012, Atsu has since endeared himself into the hearts of many as the new Abedi Pele.
He did struggle in his first major international tournament at the 2013 AFCON but his Player of the Season feat on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in the Dutch league apparently stirred an air of newfound belief ahead of the World Cup. Atsu’s performances in Brazil, however, provoked mixed feelings. Still, his status as Ghana’s future star remains uncontested.
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