By Ameenu Shardow
The team was by far not bad but for some reason the players aided by some â€˜tactical mistakesâ€™ failed to turn up.
The Black Stars never improved nor impressed in the six matches played at the 2013 Nations Cup.
Unlike in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea where the team came into their own in the semi-finals but lost to Zambia, this team actually got worse against a very manageable opponent in Burkina Faso.
Off the field
The team spirit and general aura in camp was very good. From afar, it was clear the players wanted to prove a point especially the 10 or so tournament debutants.
The coach was given absolutely no problems, none of the player meetings were dominated by heated exchanges, verbal attacks and reactions as in the case in the last AFCON.
There was respect for each other and player-to-player motivation and confidence reposed in each other was very high.
I dare say, it was the reason Ghana made it that far in the competition.
On the field
In a nut-shell, the Black Stars lacked quality and coach Akwasi Appiah appeared not totally honest about having absolute confidence in each and every player he took along to the tournament.
â€œYou could see the coach really wanted to make a change but he looks at the bench and just couldnâ€™t find anyone (worthy enough) to come on,â€ one player on the bench told me after the Cape Verde win.
Peharps it was one of the major mistakes Appiah himself admitted to at the post-tournament press conference last week â€“ despite not giving specifics.
But the other truth of the matter was also that some of the players let the coach down BIG TIME!
Apart from his first game against Mali, Isaac Vorsah for instance got worse as the competition progressed.
His poor judgement and positioning meant his defensive partner John Boye had to carry excess baggage â€“ thereby creating mistakes of his own in the process.
Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu was also one player who failed to live up to his own high standards. His energy levels had significantly dropped, he lacked the initiative and drive going forward and tracking back was just terrible.
It left our midfield badly exposed but for the selfless Rabiu Mohammed who was constantly tempted to foul opponents to save the situation.
Christian Atsu was a massive flop but he could be excused â€“ afterall, he is a young chap playing at his first Nations Cup finals. The lesson however drawn here is that, we donâ€™t raise our players high to the extent of setting them up for the big fall (myself inclusive).
Kwadwo Asamoah had a very prouctive tournament, he scored two goals but you always feel there is more he can do.
Albert Adomahâ€™s direct approach appeared way too premature for the team that was determined to keep the ball on the ground, pass it around with skill and create lots of opportunities. The quality of his deliveries were also very suspect, should do better.
Unfortunately for Derek Boateng, his experience and touted leadership qualities were far inferior to the fact he has not been playing regularyly. Dwelled on the ball too much and ended up proving to everyone why he should not be considered in future assignments unless of course he improves his form.
The case of Asamoah Gyan is quite straightforward. He as the lead striker is always expected to score. He blew some very glaring chances not worthy enough to be our no.1 striker but on the flip side was very useful to the team. Created four assists and drew a lot of attention from opponents. He however failed to inspire confidence in the team as the captain per his performance in terms of chances per goal ratio at the tournament.
I hold the view that as a captain, it should show from your performance on the field of play aside all other things. Either his role as the lead striker per his current international form is redefined or he ups his game significantly to merit that tag.
John Paintsil did quite well, his contribution became apparent by his absence caused by the injury in the Burkina loss. But for a modern lateral defender, more is required. Was unable to contribute going forward. He however was one chap who showed a lot of leadership in the team. All the players looked up to him for inspiration.
Mubarak Wakaso, Harrison Afful, Solomon Asante and Fatawu Dauda obviously proved their worth especially the AshGold goalkeeper. Still some work to be done on the outfield players but they have done just enough to merit subsequent calls.
The little I saw of Jerry Akaminko and Emmanuel Clottey tells me they are just not up there yet.
As for Anthony Annan and Richmond Boakye-Yiadom, I really will want to take a closer look at them again when they recover from their injuries to make up my mind.
I am indefferent about Jonathan Mensah, Awal Mohammed and Richard Kissi-Boateng as not much was seen of them.
â€œSome of the players hid injuries only to make the squad for the tournament,â€ a top Ghana FA source told me during the tournament.
Identities of these players are not yet known though I have my suspicions but it leaves a lot to be concerned about if indeed true.
In defence of team doctor Baba Adamu, honesty on the side of patients about their injury record forms a crucial part of the recovery.
As we are being told now, some of the players lied about their physical status just so they make the final squad.
I get the feeling playing for the Black Stars nowadays is heavily dominated by the financial returns one stands to gain.
Though the teamâ€™s management are putting in financial reward regimes geared towards improved performance, I just get the feeling its still not enough.
Peharps we should put chunk of the qualification bonus towards qualifying for the grande finale rather than spread them across the early stages.
Because though the nation is still in grief over our disappointing finish, the players are smiling all the way to the bank. Itâ€™s about time they start feeling the pain also by hitting where it hurts the most, their pockets.
The big boys are badly needed during tournaments, aside giving you at least flashes of quality on the field of play, they neutralize the effect of the young and very troublesome players in camp.
The teamâ€™s management should look critically at the monetary issue and find imporved ways of rewarding players only when they achieve.
The teamâ€™s medical team should be better equipped to get all records of player injuries and treatemnt history to ensure deciet is limited to the bearest.
The coach is being maintained, which is a good thing, he is better placed to make all the corrections.
Vote of thanks
To the government who made enormous financial conrtibution to Ghanaâ€™s campaign in South Africa.
Apart from providing for the team, supporters and journalists were dignified in their stay during the tournament with the accomodation offered and other incentives.
It wasnâ€™t perfect but far better than what was organised for the 2010 World Cup.
This report is a summary of observations made and interactions had during the tournament in South Africa.