Ghana charmed us but paid for naivety

IndependentSport View by Darlington Majonga

GHANA’S joie de vivre at the World Cup finals enchanted billions around the globe so much so that it’s a pity the Black Stars’ only consolation for their staggering show in Germany is that they did

not disgrace themselves and Africa.

Sadly, what Ghana achieved is nothing extraordinary — for we have had African teams before pulling off shock results at the World Cup finals that in the end mean nothing.

Refreshingly though, Ghana have not been content with playing spoiler but were keen to play refined football with grandeur as well.

Ghana’s poise on the ball and attacking flair gave Africa and the world a reason to believe the Black Stars could emulate Senegal and reach the World Cup quarter-finals on their debut.

But that was not to be, and Ghana’s cruel 0-3 loss to a bland Brazil on Tuesday might have reduced to mere flukes and flattery the Black Stars’ feats in the first round in which they stunned favourites the Czech Republic and the United States of America.

History remembers victories, not good displays, and it’s a bitter lesson we hope Ghana and the whole of Africa have understood. 

Conspiracy theorists have been quick to suggest a furtive ploy to stymie Ghana’s progress beyond the second round after the Black Stars — the only African side to survive the group stage — succumbed to Brazil.

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic blamed poor match officiating for his charges’ knockout — and he was ejected from the dugout during the match after sarcastically telling the referee to put on Brazil’s yellow shirt.

Disappointed fans across Africa have unsurprisingly echoed Dujkovic’s sentiments, claiming Adriano was offside when he finished off Brazil’s second goal just before half-time.  

Granted, refereeing at the World Cup finals has been nothing short of scandalous.

But it can only be preposterous for anyone to finger the match officials for Ghana’s demise when it was apparent to all of us why the Africans lost at the hands of Brazil.

Simply put, Ghana paid dearly for their naivety in front of goal.

The Black Stars could have gotten the better of the world champions had they been proficient in front of goal but instead they were profligate, frittering away the handful of chances they created for themselves.

Ghana had managed to keep Brazil on their toes as they gave their more illustrious opponents a taste of their own medicine with neat build-ups from the back.

But the numerous chances the Africans created were to no avail as Matthew Amoah and Asamoah Gyan clearly lacked the aplomb and predatory instincts in front of goal.

It’s heart-rending that, for all their thrilling attacking flair, the Ghanaians allowed themselves to be overawed by the big names in Brazil’s team that it seemed they did not have an iota of belief that they could score against them. 

Technically, it’s safe to say the Black Stars were outplayed even though they dominated possession. Brazil simply waited for Ghana to have a go at them and them hit them on quick counter-attacks.

Ghana failed to think outside the box in front of goal, which is why they ended up blasting wild shots from outside the box in desperation.

The Black Stars’ organisational capacity left a lot to be desired when they all streamed forward, including the defence, in attack and left goalkeeper Richard Kingson badly exposed.

It’s not a mere coincidence that all of Brazil’s goals were scored on counter-attacks.

Ronaldo raced to a through ball, with Ghana’s rearguard in sixes and sevens, and sold Kingson a dummy with his trademark step-over before scoring.

The Black Stars were then punished for their overindulgence with the ball when they were dispossessed with the whole team in attack, as Brazil quickly counter-attacked to find Adriano who poked the ball home with his knee.

Ghana’s ineffectuality at the back was also exploited when Ze Roberto raced from the midfield, with the defence static, to stab the ball beyond Kingson and then into the empty goal.

Though Adriano’s goal was contestable, we wouldn’t want to believe a team that also benefited from a dubious penalty against the United States could make so much a story out of that.

Thank goodness it has been hard to brandish the racial card against the referee, for very few players in the Brazilian team are remotely white.

If the referee is to blame, Ghana lost not because the umpire was biased but probably incompetent — as has been the case with most of the officials in Germany.

But still, that’s no excuse for the performance Ghana put up in front of goal — especially considering the number of chances they had to shock the Brazilians.

There’s nothing really to rejoice about, but we must admit Ghana’s unprecedented performance was a big relief and the only bright spot after Africa’s four other representatives at the tournament lumbered out in the first round.

What Ghana achieved is probably to goad African teams back to their drawing boards.

Our hope is that the Zimbabwe Football Association have been taking keen interest in Ghana’s Cinderella feats.

We have no doubt some fanatics out there believe Zimbabwe could have achieved as much as Ghana or more, after the
Warriors humiliated the Black Stars 2-1 at the African Nations Cup finals in January.

That debate is simply unsustainable not only because the Warriors are not in any way better than the Black Stars, but also that Zimbabwe have no capacity to challenge for a berth at the World Cup finals unless a lot of things change.

For Zimbabwe to probably make it at the highest level, we need to have our players playing at the highest level as well.

In Ghana’s World Cup squad, the only players not at foreign teams were George Owu of AshantiGold, Asante Kotoko’s Shilla Illiasu, Dan Quaye of Hearts of Oak and Habib Mohamed of King Faisal Babes.

The other 19 are at European clubs where the invaluable experience they have gained there was certainly on display in Germany.

Michael Essien, whose solidity and panache were greatly missed against Brazil, leads Ghana’s star cast in Europe where he joined English champions Chelsea for an African record fee last year.

The experience skipper Stephen Appiah, a key player at Turkish giants Fernabahce, has earned during stints with Italian sides Udinese and Juventus has been invaluable for Ghana.

The Black Stars are not short on German experience, with midfielder Otto Addo playing at FC Mainz and striker Amoah at Borussia Dortmund. Sulley Muntari is with Serie A club Udinese in Italy, where Gyan is on loan at Modena.  

In contrast, the majority of Zimbabwe’s players are in the South African premiership, which arguably is only superior to the domestic top-flight league for its money.

Benjani Mwaruwari hasn’t convinced the world he can be the driving force behind Zimbabwe despite his exploits at French side AJ Auxerre before joining English premiership club Portsmouth.

Our best hope for now is that Esrom Nyandoro can find a club in England where he can be drilled and honed for the rigours of football at the highest level.

Zvenyika Makonese has been linked with a move to Europe, where Shingi Kawondera, Cephas Chimedza and Brian Badza have found it hard to settle.

But we are afraid, most of them as well as others at obscure European and South African clubs could be beyond their prime and not the material that will take Zimbabwe to the top level in international football.  

Otherwise the rest we can look at in our desperation for quality players are greenhorns such as Evans Gwekwerere, Heavens Chinyama, Justice Majabvi, Onesmo Bhasera and Washington Pakamisa, to name just a few. We trust they haven’t modified their ages.

It’s instructive to note that the average age of Ghana’s squad is 25,6 — which means the majority of the players might still be around for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

Football is not about luck or black magic.

It’s about skill, technique, physique, focus, composure and organisation. It’s about careful planning, beginning at the grassroots level. It’s about nurturing talent and exploiting potential as much as it is about continuity.

Ghana are endowed with most of those aspects, and we have no reason to doubt they can be a real force to reckon with in football if they right what was wrong in Germany.

For the time being, Zifa and the whole football fraternity in the country and Africa as a whole have been afforded free lessons that we hope will take our football forward.
dmajonga@yahoo.com

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