Ghana: final pre-World Cup thoughts

On Tuesday evening, Ghana concluded their World Cup preparations with a comfortable 4-0 win over South Korea. Although we can’t normally take a lot from friendlies this was the first time in a while that Ghana had something resembling a full team out to give us an indication of how they’ll set up in Brazil.

Ghana started in their usual 4-4-2 with Majeed Waris playing off Asamoah Gyan, but the former picked up an injury very early in the match was replaced by Jordan Ayew. Kevin-Prince Boateng moved to play behind Gyan with Jordan Ayew moving to the right.

The first two goals were typical Ghana. South Korea were caught on the ball as they tried to work it through midfield and Jordan Ayew scored, from a cross by his brother, Andre. Gyan scored the second by driving directly at the defence before shifting the ball to his right and finishing. The following is an analysis on each component of the team:

Defence

The Black Stars have always been good on the counter, but the age-old defensive problems were still there. The midfield left too much space in front of the defence, and the full-backs, especially Harrison Afful, were caught with balls in between themselves and the centre-backs. They were also too easily isolated and were left to battle one on one with their opposing winger, something a team who are already not great defensively, can’t allow to happen.

On the other side of the back four, Kwadwo Asamoah, who is usually a wing-back for Juventus, performed admirably although he did lose the ball occasionally trying to do too much. His best moment in the match was actually when he found himself in the middle of the park, beat a couple of players and played a nice pass. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Daniel Opare comes back: will Asamoah take Afful’s place? Asamoah was never really tested defensively and how he’ll perform under significant pressure remains to be seen.

The Ghanaian defence will perform best when they just have to tackle, block and head away crosses, they can be exploited in the channels and Kwesi Appiah must prevent that from occurring.

Midfield

In midfield there are still a few questions. Mohammed Rabiu seems certain to start. Who partners him is still a bit of a mystery. Michael Essien will help protect a vulnerable defence better but Sulley Muntari will find long passes for Ghana’s fast transitions more effectively. You could make a case for both not starting, though at least one probably will. They are both a slight liability in a midfield two.

In the second half, the team were far more compact, especially with the Afriyie Acquah and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu coming on and covering more ground. The wingers worked back better when Mubarak Wakaso came on for Gyan and Andre Ayew, with his superior work rate, shifted to the right for his brother to operate as a central forward. Albert Adomah later came on Andre Ayew and continued his defensive work.

Extras

Albert Adomah has been criticised for his performances with the Black Stars but on Tuesday he showed why he can be useful.

Firstly, his defensive diligence. Secondly, when he keeps it simple and efficient he can be effective. When he plays quick one-touch football and puts low crosses into the box he’s better than when he tries to dribble past his full-back, which of late he’s looked poor doing at international level.

On the goalkeeping issue, Dauda continued his customary flapping from crosses. With a dodgy defence in front of him this causes even more confusion and, quite simply, it’ll be incredibly surprising if he starts against the USA.

Of late, Jordan Ayew has started in friendlies against the Netherlands and prior to that Montenegro. He was criticised for both performances. Against Montenegro he played off behind Majeed Waris in a role that doesn’t suit him, and versus the Netherlands he had a disjointed midfield behind him, yet he was written off. Against Korea he showed the form he has for Sochaux. He’s a good dribbler of the ball, strong technically, decent with his head and apparently has been working overtime on his finishing. Don’t be surprised if he scores an important goal this summer.

Ghana didn’t concede more than one goal in any game and how far they go will depend on how well they perform at the back. Like four years ago, Ghana’s best strategy for progressing will be to sit back and counter at speed. There is still a lack of a plan B, which makes the omission of Richmond Boakye slightly puzzling. As a physical centre forward who’s dominant in the air, he may have come in useful.

If Ghana score first in both matches they have a great chance of adding more on the break but we’ll see how good of a tactician Kwesi Appiah is when he has to work out how to unlock deep defences.

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