NEWS COMMENTARY REVIEWS THE PERFORMANCE OF THE SENIOR NATIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM, THE BLACK STARS, AGAINST THE SQUIRRELS OF BENIN AND PREVIEWS JUNE 29th MATCH BETWEEN THE BLACK STARS AND THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS, THE INDOMITABLE LIONS OF CAMEROON.
The presence of President Akufo-Addo in Ismailia, Egypt, to watch the Black Stars opening match against the Squirrels of Benin on June 25 should have gingered up the team to have exhibited a highly-spirited performance never seen in their recent matches. The team is also on record to have had the longest training camp in the recent annals of the Black Stars. Though the euphoria and enthusiasm among Ghanaians is at its lowest ebb, the expectation was however high especially against a side that has very little or nothing to show in terms of African football. It is not for nothing that football is said to be the passion of the nation. This is because it is the only sporting discipline that unites the country whenever the Black Stars are playing a qualifier or participating in a tournament.
Though there is no empirical evidence to support this assertion, it is a strong conviction among Ghanaians that any good or bad performance of the Black Stars has a rippling effect on productivity. As for those who deal in Black Stars paraphernalia, business booms vis-à-vis a win and the vice versa. It is this same passion for football which has compelled connoisseurs of the game to often say that football is one sporting discipline with 30 million Ghanaian coaches.
Indeed, Ghanaians have every right to demand optimum performance from the Black Stars all the time, since it is also the only sporting discipline that the state spends so much money on. June 25 2-2 draw with Benin compared with earlier matches involving other power houses in African football in the tournament forced some Ghanaians to predict early exit for the Black Stars. This was a match that much was expected of the likes of Christian Atsu, Mubarak Wakaso, John Boye and Thomas Partey, to have carried the team on their shoulders especially against a Beninois side with no pedigree in African football compared with the track record of the Black Stars as four time champions of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, three World Cup appearances in a row from 2006, 2010 to 2014. Let no one misconstrue these facts as a sign of disrespect for the Squirrels. The performance of the Ghana Black Stars against their Beninois counterparts last Tuesday was below par and Head Coach James Kwasi Appiah and his technical team must equally be blamed for the team’s poor showing on the night.
That notwithstanding, thanks to the Ayew brothers, the team managed to secure a point from the match, which we could have won and bagged the maximum three points if a senior player like defender John Boye had been a little disciplined and focused. His dismissal in the 54th minute worsened the plight of the team and also disorganised the plans of the coach at the time the Black Stars were leading 2-1. June 29, the team will be playing the defending champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. The Lions in recent encounters have ran away with victories against the Black Stars, with the last defeat being two years ago in a semi-final match in Equatorial Guinea. The Black Stars lost 2-0. In 2008, when Ghana hosted the tournament, the Lions piped the high-flying Black Stars 1-0 in front of the partisan Ghanaian supporters at the Accra Sports Stadium.
A revenge tomorrow will be an understatement.
A draw won’t be bad for the chances of the Black Stars qualifying for the next stage if they can beat Guinea- Bissau in their last Group H match. Ghanaians must remain hopeful just that the task of defeating the Indomitable Lions will be daunting. For coach Kwasi Appiah, he must select the players with the mental fortitude and discipline to die a little for the country. He must also have his tactics and selections right to either defeat or draw with the Cameroonians in order to stay on course. Ghana for some years has recorded mixed football results on the land of the Pharaohs in tournaments. In Egypt 2006, the Black Stars led by Stephen Appiah exited at the group stage with a painful 2-1 defeat by Zimbabwe. But in 2009, now Black Stars captain, Andre Dede Ayew led the national Under-20 team, the Black Satellites, to win the Under-20 World Cup. The national Under-17 team, the Black Stars, the defending champions lost the trophy to their Brazilian counterparts in 1997. It is not beyond the Black Stars to rally again against the Lions just as they did to Germany during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The team lost its first group match against the US but came back strongly against the eventual winners Germany in their second match and held them to a 2-2 game.
When no one gave the Black Stars a dog’s chance during Angola 2010 with a 3-1 defeat by Cote D’Ivoire, the team adopted a strategy that became known as “One Goal Project” to get to the final only to lose the trophy to the Pharoahs of Egypt by a lone goal. History is on the side of the Black Stars and we cannot give up on them at the time they need us most. For them to win the nation’s fifth trophy will not just require our prayers but our maximum support.
BY SETH EYIAH, A JOURNALIST.