What We Learnt From the International Break

Coach C.K. Akonnor received a lot of criticism after the Black Stars lost to the Eagles of Mali. Many people questioned his competence but the first game was too soon to judge his ability. The Black Stars had been out of action for more than 300 days. Coach Akonnor waited more than 8 months for his first competitive game as head coach. The public’s criticism was premature and unwarranted. The team is in a transitional phase and had just two days of full training prior to the game against Mali on Friday. That was no excuse for the performance but the criticism was too harsh in some circles. On Monday, a far better performance led to a 5-1 win against Asian champions, Qatar. The scoreline reflected the balance of play as the team gelled well and delivered a masterclass. These two games were a good exercise for the team and coach Akonnor would have taken many positives from both games.

Andre Ayew’s best position

The question of where skipper, Andre Ayew should be deployed is one that has been asked countless times. Against Qatar, he was deployed as a #10 and that yielded instant results with two well-taken goals. Dede enjoyed a free role which allowed him to drop deep and pick out pockets of space. This opened up the attack and made it easier for other players to thrive. Going forward, it is expected that Dede will be allowed to play in that free role that allows him to play close to the striker and take on more attacking responsibility.

The Right Side

Against Mali, the pairing of Tarique Fosu and Andre Ayew down the right-hand side lacked the cohesion going into attack. That could be attributed to the fact that Tarique, an out-and-out winger, was deployed in an unfamiliar right-back role. The second game against Qatar gave fans something to cheer about. The combination of right-back, Benson Anang and winger, Samuel Owusu worked to devastating effect. Both young men contributed to the attack, showing good passing range and awareness. Owusu was rewarded for his performance with a goal and an assist. His performance has all-but cemented his place in the new look Black Stars ahead of games against Sudan. Benson Anang started the game cautiously but gradually grew into it and barely put a foot wrong. The youngster has certainly put himself in contention for a place in the team ahead of next month’s Afcon qualifiers.

Left-back issues

The left-back position for the team remains suspect despite an improved performance against Qatar by Gideon Mensah. Mensah’s positioning at times, in both games, put pressure on his team especially when the ball was lost in midfield. The Malians exploited his weakness and reaped the benefits with two goals created from that flank. Coach Akonnor would be concerned and hoping that Baba Rahman could secure playing time to warrant a call-up in subsequent games. Jeffery Schlupp too would be another candidate for selection in November.

Execution of the “Michael Essien” role

Thomas Partey proved his worth against Qatar by perfectly executing the “Michael Essien” role. Partey controlled the midfield and was rewarded with an assist for the 3rd goal. His shot from outside the box also fell to Andre Ayew for the Stars’ second goal. Coach Akonnor would love more of the same when his team lines up against Sudan in a double-header next month.

There are huge positives for the upcoming qualifiers and coach C.K. will be thinking of the best team to present. Players like Alexander Djiku, Razak Abalora, Baba Iddrisu and Tarique Fosu have all staked claim for a call up and it would be interesting to see what kind of team will be presented in November. The journey to #BringbacktheLove continues…….

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