For the first time in a long time there doesn’t seem to be much expectation on the shoulders of the Black Stars. Many fans back home are still angry at the embarrassment caused in Brazil and with Avram Grant appointed at a time so near to the start of the tournament nobody can seriously expect Ghana to come out of the blocks playing stellar football.
Because of Grant’s decision to hide the team away in Spain and play two friendlies behind closed doors against Portuguese club Olhanense and Eredivisie side SC Cambuur, nobody actually knows what shape they’re in coming into this match.
Grant has decided to make the radical switch to a 3-5-2 formation. With the Black Stars having played with a back four for as long as anyone can remember this is a drastic change to make in such a short space of time and time will tell if it’s a smart decision on Grant’s behalf. Reports are that training is a lot more intense than it was during Kwesi Appiah and Maxwell Konadu’s reign, with bigger importance being placed on fitness so maybe Ghana will be more mentally prepared than in previous years.
All-time top scorer Asamoah Gyan is ill with what is being described as a “mild” bout of malaria and is a doubt for the Group C opener. Grant is expected to employ a two striker system and with Gyan out that leaves the below average Mahatma Otoo and League Two striker Kwesi Appiah, who by chance shares an agent with Avram Grant, to partner Jordan Ayew. Senegal have a host of physical defenders an Ghana will sorely miss Gyan’s hold up play which makes the snub of Juventus’ Richmond Boakye Yiadom even more puzzling.
After crashing out when many perceived them to be dark horses in 2012. Failure to qualify in 2013 brought more disappointment but Senegal have a genuine chance to beat Ghana in Mongomo. Man for man they are arguably better than Ghana and have a wealth of forward options to put Ghana to the sword. They’re strong defensively too as they showed in qualifying.
Senegal also have the advantage of being managed by Alain Giresse. As well as simply being with the side for a longer period of time Giresse has coached Gabon and Mali in Africa Cup of Nations tournaments prior to this and has the knowhow that Grant doesn’t possess.
Finally, one major tactical point may be the use of Senegal’s wide forward targeting Ghana’s centre backs. Not only are Ghana new to their 3-5-2 system but they have a rookie (Daniel Amartey) and two other centre backs (John Boye and Mohamed Awal) of questionable quality. Senegal should be able to pull them out of shape to expose the hapless Razal Brimah.