Obrigado!! That was me, brushing up my Portuguese in response to Ivorian referee, Noumandiez Desire Doue’s final whistle at the Air Defence Stadium in Cairo, Egypt.
Ghana’s Black Stars had just secured qualification to the 2014 World Cup at Egypt’s expense.
The Black Stars lost 2-1, but qualified on a 7-3 aggregate after beating the Egyptians 6-1 a month ago in Kumasi.
So, while I managed a ‘thank you’ in Portuguese, lots of images flooded my vision; I saw the sandy beach of Copacabana; pretty voluptuous women in bikini (I hope my girlfriend is not reading);
I heard the groovy rhythms of Samba music and though I was thousands of miles away, I could almost smell and feel the carnival atmosphere of the World Cup in Brazil.
Brazil beckoned, not only for the players and technical team of the Black Stars but for the fans and us media men.
Brazil 2014 is going to be special, not only because it will be played on the grounds of undoubtedly, the greatest football nation on earth but will also serve visitors to the tourney, the alluring sights and sounds of Brazil.
So, naturally, you and I are understandably excited, but at the same time, we are still very much aware that there a couple of knotty issues to be cleared in order to ensure that the Black Stars progress from the group stages primarily for football reasons and of course, for recreational reasons as well. You feel me? If you do, come lets untie those knotty points.
Fatau’s long rope
The game against Egypt further exposed the frailties of the Ghanaian defense.
Goalie Fatau Dauda has been given a long rope and has kept his place despite warming the bench at South African club, Orlando pirates.
On the night , he had a decent run out saving a couple of shots from distance but his aerial deficiencies provided anxious moments and indeed, the Egyptians scored from one of such, when he made for the ball, rather than staying on the line.
At the World Cup, other attackers would not be so kind and Ghana will get punished. Thankfully Ghana has about 6 months to prepare.
In that period, the other goalies, Norway based Adam Kwarasey, South African based Daniel Agyei and even local boy Foli Adade of Medeama should be given turns in several friendly matches to give Fatau a run for his position.
It is through competition that Richard Kignson overtook Sammy Adjei as number one, just a couple of months to the 2006 World Cup and went on to become a reliable shot stopper for Ghana.
Similarly, Fatau should be pushed to literally get off his backside and fight for his position.
Fatau’s long rope is surely wearing thin and only stiff competition will bring the best out of him or provide Ghana a superior alternative.
Rabiu who? Oh yes, I am sure you will have gotten that if you ever mentioned Rabiu Mohammed’s name after the first leg match of the World Cup play off in Kumasi.
Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari’s dominance in the midfield on that day was so emphatic that many fans may have forgotten about the bona-fide water carrier of the team.
Rabiu who plays for FC Kuban Krasnodar in Russia missed the play off through injury. The second leg in Egypt however showed that Rabiu cannot be discarded that easily.
While my worst fears were not confirmed in the first leg, the Cairo game did. It may be true that the Egyptians were the more motivated of the two teams on the day and the Black Stars going in with a 5-0 advantage did not show up as a team, yes it is true.
But there is also no denying that Essien-Muntari pivot on the day struggled to assert their influence as they left acres of space for the Egyptians to farm.
The two players aren’t as pacy and quick as they used to and could not press and pass as they could.
Now, I am not advocating for this pairing to be trashed immediately, but to try different combinations with Rabiu being the mainstay since he, Rabiu can do the mopping up and thus free either of Muntari or Essien to optimize their attacking ability.
Ghana’s only goal in the Egyptian game was scored by one, who was making a return after a 2 year absence.
Kevin Prince Boateng: The player loved and loathed in equal measure by Ghanaian fans. He was loved when he played his heart out; anchoring Ghana’s midfield at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as Ghana made a historic quarter final place.
He has sinced been loathed by a section of fans for retiring from the team in 2011, citing inability to combine club and national team games. His crime?
He used Ghana to sell himself at the World Cup and turned his back when tedious qualifiers had to be played on the African continent.
His sudden return is thus seen by many to be convenient as the World Cup approaches. That is the crown of thorns on Kevin’s head.
The big question is, could the situation of distrust between Kevin and Ghanaian fans be handled differently? Yes and here is my prescription.
The truth is that Kevin has undergone as many about six surgeries on his right knee which has damaged his meniscus following the scrapping of a cartilage in his right knee, thus the recurrence of his injuries and persistent limps on the field.
Psychologically, he is weary playing on the African fields hence his insistence on travelling with his personal physiotherapist, Hagan Stroh.
Now, this is where it gets complicated. Knowing his history, should the Football Association and Ghanaian fans offer him the leeway to only play critical matches and also be given special treatment in camp?
Well, that can be arranged but it should first start with Kevin himself being honest about his unique injury troubles rather than clothe it because Ghanaians can spot an excuse when they see one.
Once he does that, I am sure Ghanaians will understand and offer him a reprieve; after all, both parties need each other.
As I thought about these, my mind drifted back to those beaches and carnivals of Brazil; 7 months away, but I can’t wait to be told ”Bem-vindo”… surely, you can guess what that means in Portuguese.
Brazil 2014, here we come!!!
Source: [email protected] – 90 Minutes Newspaper
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