Even though the Black Stars have not won a major trophy since 1982, there is almost always the expectation that the team will win ahead of every African Nations Cup tournament.
Many have offered opinions as to why Ghana failed to get past the semi-final stage in Gabon. I will attempt to offer some perspective on the defeat, but I can tell you that there are so many reasons why the Black Stars came unstuck. I will mention a few.
Laziness in scouting
Ghana coach Avram Grant claimed he spent time out of the country scouting players and that he watches the local league. He has been economical with the truth and I will tell you why. Not long after the 2015 Afcon, he had two friendly games against MalI and Senegal. Friendly games are supposed to allow the coach run the rule over fringe players but what did we see? The same first choice players were deployed in those games. In short, Grant failed miserably in any attempt to deepen the squad. Again, during the qualifiers for the Afcon, he did not give such fringe players much of a chance, even when the team qualified with a game to spare. As a result, there was little or no competition for places in the team and the Black Stars stagnated. From a top 30 team in the world Ghana is now a top 60 team according to FIFA. The Black Stars now have no creator in chief to give incisive passes and one of the biggest Achilles heels of the team is weakness in lateral defence. For instance, Harrison Afful is no longer the force he was and Baba Rahman needs competition at left back, but nothing was done before the tournament. Christian Atsu has got talent but he has stagnated and He also needed competition but again, nothing was done. I will deal with the over Reliance on Asamoah Gyan later in this piece.
Players played out of position
As a follow up from the first point, I will say that Avram Grant was lazy as a coach because he failed to see what had become obvious to most of us. People can argue all they want, but Jordan Ayew is NOT and will never be an out and out striker. He is a playmaker and that has been his role at Aston Villa this season. His best position is in any of the three attacking positions behind the main striker but Grant kept thinking of him as a striker. I felt sorry for Jordan when he was fiercely lambasted for the first game performance but look at his assist for Gyan’s goal in the second match. For me, if Jordan scores it is a bonus rather than the norm. Elder brother Andre is of a similar mould but again Grant persists in using him on the left flank. That is why Andre would drift inside during games and leave the left back exposed. Instead of putting his trust in Andy Yiadom and moving Afful to the left back position after Rahman’s injury, he used Frank Acheampong who was left exposed time and again. As a result, the team was unbalanced.
Why Management committee members failed
I am referring to a certain aspect which was the absence of Kwadwo Asamoah. The team was crying out for a true creative force in midfield but there was no one available. I am reliably informed that the Juventus midfielder told management committee members that he wanted time off the Black Stars, but in my view, the management team failed to make him feel wanted enough to come back to the team. In short, they should have done more to persuade him to join up. So they failed in that respect.
Over Reliance on Gyan and wrong choices
I have been asking this question for a very long time: what are we doing to find a replacement for Asamoah Gyan? At the moment nothing is still being done and instead Jordan Ayew is being groomed as his replacement which to me is a mistake for reasons I have already outlined. Some of us knew about Raphael Dwamena before he was eventually called into the Black Stars and yet official scouting failed to pick him up. This is a player who has a lethal left foot, is strong and also very good in the air. He would have been the perfect back up for Gyan but Grant felt that a certain Bernard Tekpetey, who has only one senior club game to his name this season, was better and so Dwamena was dropped. Also, Abdul Majeed Waris was coming back to form after a run of injuries and yet, despite his experience, was dropped in favour of Ebenezer Assifuah, who is now a converted right winger with his club in Switzerland. The end result was once again an over Reliance on Gyan and since Gyan was not fully fit going into the tournament, the Black Stars were always going to lack the cutting edge. Goals are the lifeblood of football and as a team, you do not expect to win trophies when you cannot score enough goals. After five games, the Black Stars scored four goals with two coming from the penalty spot. Not good enough.
It was clear that Grant can no longer read the game well and so better coaches will always outfox him. Again, his aversion to making suitable changes to his line up meant that the Black Stars looked predictable to any opponent. Hugo Broos exploited that by hurting Ghana on the flanks and Cameroon profited in the end. Is was also inexplicable that at one goal down, he took Thomas Partey off and instead of giving the likes of Tepketey, Assifuah or Samuel Tetteh the chance to help the team, he brought on Emmanuel Agyemang Badu. I wonder what he thought the Udinese midfielder would bring to the table. Replacing Afriyie Acquah with Gyan only weakened the midfield further when it was clear that Mubarak Also kept giving away fouls and that eventually led to the first goal. I have no doubt in my mind that Grant retrogressed the team and took $50000 a month for practically doing nothing. Now that his contract is up, I say good riddance.
I will soon be back with another post on why too much money is wasted on the Black Stars and why it might not necessarily be the players agitating for things like match winning bonuses.