Part 1 Shattered Dreams
The Ghana Black Stars couldn?t meet even half of the somewhat lofty and unrealistic expectations of Ghanaians at the 2014 football world cup fiesta, and as expected, the emotional response to this perceived failure was an unrelenting avalanche of scathing attacks on any person who was remotely involved in the affairs of the team; even President Mahama got his fair share.
Who can blame us? The wheels had fallen off the bus that carried the hope and aspirations of a people and everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. The pride of a nation had been hurt!
In Ghana?s last friendly match in the build up to the world cup, they thrashed their South Korean opponents by four goals to nil. This auspicious win coupled with our decent performances at our maiden and subsequent appearances at the world cup had subliminally heightened the expectations of fans up up a notch even to a fever pitch.
And then came that rude awakening, in our first match against the USA, we were stunned as we conceded the sixth fastest goal in world cup history. In our mindless optimism and patriotism we dismissed that early goal as just a mere impediment on the trajectory to fulfill our divine destiny to be the first African country to annex that shimmering 18 carat gold trophy. That dream was never to be!
In any case, it will be harsh to describe the performance of the Black Stars on the field of play as abysmal (at least in their first two matches) as many media reports have suggested, on the other hand the administration and handling of off-field issues of the team was anything but efficient.
The team and anybody who mattered were subpoenaed before the ?court of the streets and social media?, and the ?eminent? judges who sat on the case could not agree on whose actions or inactions had caused the Brazil fiasco. Was it greedy and unpatriotic players, player indiscipline, lack of unity within camp or poor planning and organization? Kwesi Appiah?s technical and tactical ability was put under heavy scrutiny by these judges, and his persona also came under heavy attack; the perception being that his placid demeanor and countenance did not exude enough authority and confidence to take charge and control of the team.
Doubts about Kwesi Appiah?s competence was re-echoed by silver-tongued sports journalist, Christopher Opoku. ?The coach does not only need training but capacity building as well and we have failed to give him that and the end result is what we see today,? he said. ?I respect and admire the man Kwesi Appiah a lot but I don?t think he is the right man to take us forward? he added.
In an interview on Metro TV?s Good Evening Ghana, the erstwhile minister of youth and sports implicitly blamed K.P Boateng for instigating the player revolt and indiscipline within camp. ?Black Stars blew away the world cup chances due to rowdiness and that breaks my heart. I just can?t understand them?, he said.
Meanwhile in an interview with Bilt newspaper (a German tabloid), K.P Boateng, slammed Ghana?s world cup preparation and described it as ?amateurish?. According to him poor organization, poor training conditions etc, coupled with a lack of team spirit caused the downfall of the team. ?We were not a real team, everyone was busy with themselves?, he said. Asked if Kwesi Appiah was a good coach, his answer was an emphatic no.
These accusations and counter-accusations by KP Boateng and Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, that of Christopher Opoku and the cacophony of opinions of the general public sums up the chaos and the ?blame game that has erupted with regard to the early exit of the Black Stars.
On the contrary this article is not purposed to join the blame game train; my preoccupation is to highlight Kwesi Appiah?s competences.
Part 2 PERFORMANCE STATISTICS
Is Kwesi Appiah really a clueless coach? Well, he is not, and this is evidenced in the performance statistics of the team during the world cup qualifiers and the 2013 African cup of nations, after all numbers don?t lie.
The format for qualification (Africa region) for the 2010 world cup differs from that of 2014, therefore a comparative analysis of the two vis-?-vis Ghana?s performance might be somewhat misleading. Nonetheless, a comparison in terms of the number of games played in relation with the number of goals scored and conceded in each qualifying campaign is fair enough.
The Ghana Black Stars, under the leadership of Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac, played a total of 12games, scoring 20 goals and conceding 8 to secure a world cup berth in 2010, whereas in the 2014 qualifying campaign, under Kwesi Appiah a total of 8 games were played (4 less than the previous one), however their goal scoring ability was rather counterintuitive, they scored a whooping, 25 goals and conceded just 6 goals (2 less than the previous campaign). As a matter of fact, the black stars were the highest scoring team in the African zone for the 2014 campaign. In the 2010 qualifying campaign, the stars scored an average of 1.7 goals per match, compared with an impressive 3.1 average for the 2014 qualifying campaign, that?s double the performance. With their 3.1 average they beat the world average of 2.8 goals per match. Clearly, Kwesi Appiah brought on board a more attack-minded approach. He knew what he was doing.
The team?s performance in the 2013 African cup of Nations was more or less a carbon copy of the 2012 edition, another Serbian, Goran Stevanovic was head coach in the former edition and Kwesi Appiah was in charge in the latter edition.
In both campaigns we reached the semi finals, placing fourth and curiously losing to Mali in the third place playoffs in both instances. The only significant difference between the two tournaments was the goal difference recorded (both group and knockout stages), +1 for Stevanovic and +4 for Appiah.
Taken these performance statistics into consideration, it will be an absolute absurdity to drop Kwesi Appiah and replace him with yet another ?B-list? Serbian, unless of course we are going in for ?A-listers? like Jose Perkerman, Guus Hiddink, Fabio Capello(whose services we can?t afford). Furthermore contracting one of these expensive coaches does not guarantee anything, Fabio Capello was the highest paid coach (for Russia) at this year?s world cup, earning a whooping 11,235,210 dollars annually, and to what effect?
Let?s opt for continuity, and reap the benefits of the experience Kwesi Appiah has garnered over the past few years as head coach, we shouldn?t allow the negative emotions spawning from our disappointment to cloud our judgment.
Part 3 2014 WORLD CUP
2014 was a bad run for the Black Stars, let?s not mince words about that, on the other hand, ?let?s not pretend like we performed wonders in 2010 either, in South Africa we couldn?t score a single goal in open play, the only two goals scored during the group stages came from two penalty kicks from Asamoah Gyan. We were lucky to qualify out of the group.
However in 2014 though we conceded 6 goals, we managed to score 4 goals in open play. Evidently, compared to 2010, our backline was rather porous in 2014; the coach had obviously noticed this and that had compelled him to play a creative player like Kwadwo Asamoah at the backline much to the displeasure of most Ghanaians. This begs the question; ?what will you have done if you were in Kwesi Appiah?s shoes??
We won one, drew one, and lost one in 2010, we could have easily replicated that performance by winning against a lackluster Portuguese side if not for the off-pitch issues that drained the life force out of the team; in that match they barely concentrate, their entire play was ponderous and lethargic, conceding two silly goals in the process.
The Ghana, Germany match is tagged as one of the most exciting matches of the tournament, in which we managed a 2-2 draw; we could probably have killed off that match if Jordan Ayew had passed that ball to Asamoah Gyan in the 66th minute. How is Jordan Ayew?s error in judgment Kwesi Appiah?s fault? Could a clueless coach have held those rampaging Germans to a draw?
Against the USA, let?s just say we were thrown off balance by Clint Dempsey?s early goal, we attacked relentlessly till we got an equalizer, but then we went to sleep thereafter and conceded again. Hard luck! Tactics is overrated!
You get the feeling that some Ghanaians erroneously felt as though we had the best team, with the best players and the only way we could have lost a game was through the tactical incompetence of the coach, that?s a rather delusional and parochial stance to assume. Luck and the split second decision taken by players on the field of play is also crucial in the outcome of the game, once again tactics is overrated!
Bad things happen, things don?t always go your way, what were the odds of Ghana making it out of the group stages a third time in a row, realistically speaking? Is life that simple? Is winning the world cup such a low hanging fruit? Ghana is not exactly a world football superpower. In 2006 we got to the 2nd round, in 2010 we got to the quarter finals, so we must make it to the semis in 2014 by default? Let?s not forget, in 2010 we were just lucky to qualify for the knockout round; our qualification was by the skin of the teeth
We beat USA twice in a row, so the Americans were just going to sit there for us to beat them a third time? These proud and tenacious Americans? Who in the world would like to be embarrassed a third time in a row without giving off a good fight? ?Did we even allow the Germans to beat us a second time?
Let?s face it; we had serious off-pitch and organizational issues. Should our superiority complex cause us to think that we had such a dazzling group of footballers, who can only lose if and only if the coach gets it wrong? What should the Spanish team say then? They came in as defending champions under the leadership of the same Vicente Del Bosque who also led them to win the Euro 2012.
Let?s end these facile and simplistic analyses, arguments that conveniently ignore the true complexities of the matter, let?s place emotions on the backburner. Kwesi Appiah may not possess a colorful personality, and may painfully be a man of few words, but in this silence lays a contemplative genius, a diamond in the dirt that has not been found, a silent killer.
Written by DIVINE NUTIFAFA SEPAH,
Architect at Local Government Service, [email protected], 0546691100.