Having opened the campaign with victory over Serbia, Ghana look well place to progress to the second round thus equalling their World Cup best of 2006; all without arguably their best player in Chelsea’s Michael ‘The Bison’ Essien. So let’s take a quick gander at England’s potential second round opponents.
Ghana’s African Cup of Nations campaign illustrated signs that they could pose a formidable World Cup presence. Without an array of their recognised stars, they made it to the final playing much of the tournament with a squad largely picked out from the successful 2009 U20 World Cup winning side. With the established players and nucleus now back, giving manager Milovan Rajevac a welcomed selection quandary, it should come as no surprise that Ghana got off to a winning start.
A surprise appointment in 2008, the little known Serbian coach Rajevac has instilled a tactical nuance and collective discipline to Ghana. Previously his (and the clubs) greatest achievement had been taking Borac Cocak to the UEFA Cup. Having now guided Ghana to the Cup of Nations final, the World Cup and securing a victory against his native Serbia in their opening fixture, Rajevac is quickly filling his CV. He has established a balance between youth and experience and created a side possessing rigidity and coherence. His tactical implementation has made them very hard to beat, if not exactly thrilling on the eye. Favouring a four, five, one formation, it is also unsurprising that Ghana’s main strengths are defensively based; not just the back four but as a collective, in terms of shape, balance and the increasing mentality of getting results. Physically strong, they are also a formidable force to break down. At the back John Mensah is solid (captaining the side against Serbia), whilst the likes of Boateng, Annan, Appiah and Asamoah offer vigour and robustness.
If these are the main strengths, then the weaknesses must be highlighted as offensively based. They will struggle, as they have in the past, to score enough goals. Perhaps they don’t posses enough ingenuity, or it could be down to the system, but they are likely to rely on the odd goal and defending soundly to ensure success. This may well be fruitful in the group stages – as demonstrated during the solid display against Serbia in which a late penalty secured victory – but will become problematic if they are to progress. As a loan forward, Gyan certainly works hard and can be a nuisance, but he is not a prolific goal scorer. Unfortunately goals will be Ghana’s chief shortcoming during the tournament.
Nevertheless, Ghana’s chances of progression clearly now look very good. I’m not quite sure just how far they can go but, given they could well be England’s second round opponents, let’s be bitter little bastards and hope they flop, fold and fail miserably once the knock-stage begins…
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