Everything points to fireworks on Friday when the high-quality Brazilians come face to face with the free-scoring Ghanaians. There are many things to watch out for in this final considering the record of both teams.
Ghana seem to let in goals fairly cheaply, conceding 5 goals in the 3 matches preceding the final. It’s a fairly high concession rate if you consider the fact that the 3 games referred to here were all knockout games. Ghana could have been in trouble but for being able to eclipse goals conceded with a high goal scoring rate. Brazil on the other hand have let in just 2 goals in the 3 matches preceding the final. The statistics may point to Brazil having the better organized defence. However let’s not forget that profligate “mis-finishing” conspired to rob Costa Rica of a real chance at the final (Brazil beat Costa Rica 5-0 at the group states) Going by this basis, perhaps Ghana will not misfire when presented with such scoring opportunities. It’s tricky. One major test for the Brazilians will be how they handle the free scoring Ghanaians and still play a highly offensive game. The Ghanaians may not be that bothered by goal concessions, because they know they can score. That being said, the return of Jon. Mensah could be a bonus to the Ghanaians.
Both sides can boast of a wide talent of midfield players with capabilities that include creativity, drive, “spoiling” and overall defensive cover/buffer. Brazil probably has midfielders who better compliment the effort of strikers by being able to find the net. The likes of Douglas Costa, Guiliano have found the net aside from their midfield roles. But forget not the talismanic Andre Ayew of Ghana, a player who possesses a wild fighting spirit and commitment that was clearly visible in the first goal Ghana scored in the semi-final against Hungary. Ayew is the sort of player who is not afraid to take on new ideas on the ball. And then you have hardworking Abeiku Quansah and the tireless Agyeman Badu. These young men are largely responsible for the fluidity with which Ghana plays its attacking game. That being said, Brazil is highly tactical in her approach and their players have the skill to support it. The same can be said for Ghana, but you can never count out the Brazilians. you just have to pay attention to the type of goals they score and their movement in the final third.
Ghana has scored not less than 2 goals in every single game played at the U-20 World Cup in Egypt. Unbelievable, but true and probably the best scoring performance of any Ghanaian national team at any level in recent history. Brazil has struggled somewhat in the goal scoring area since coming out top of their group in the group stages. In the 3 matches preceding the final, Brazil has scored 6 goals, compared to Ghana’s 8, so by inference Ghana should have the edge when it comes to goals. I was talking to a buddy today who postulated that going by Ghana’s scoring record so far, Brazil would have to score not less than 3 goals to have a chance of beating Ghana. Easy to say, but one cannot ignore the midfield and defensive factors that support overall offensive play.
This is a bit of dicey area. It will be interesting to see how both coaches react to each other’s play. Without knowing what’s in each coach’s mind, it’s difficult to determine how the coaches will approach the game. Going by the trends thus far, both teams will likely come out attacking, trying to pin the other down. Ghana showed against Korea that they can maintain possession for only 36% of the game and still score 2 or more goals. If you look at the Brazil vs Costa Rica game, you can see that Brazil can be out of sorts when they are attacked. But Brazil also has brilliant individual players who can finish with such finesse and style. I do not expect Ghana’s coach to change overall tactics. What he needs to do is probably restrain one of 2 full backs from going forward too much (I’d suggest the left side of Ghana’s defence, mainly because of Inkoom’s abilities going forward). On Brazil’s part, I do not expect them to sacrifice their offensive push. They may perhaps organize their midfield to try to contain the fast Ghanaian attackers. The Brazilians will also not come short on antics and dramatic reactions. It’s a cup final and they can gain from a red card or second yellow to a Ghanaian player. Hence, Ghana needs to be wary of these antics and of the referee of the day.
Tactically there are some specific things for both teams to improve upon. Ghana has to maintain her attacking play to get the goals, but must also be better organized defensively to avoid the loopholes that have led to some cheap goals. Brazil will definitely take advantage of such loopholes. They always do. On Brazil’s part, they would have to maintain their offensive push while managing to hold the tireless Ghanaian attackers at bay.
The common denominator here will be midfield organization – offensively and defensively. This is because it will determine player movement and positioning when a team goes on the attack or reels under defensive pressure and will also lead to how many errors could be committed to give the opponent an advantage. Sam Arday’s multi-system (all attacking all-defending) is probably the best tactical approach for the Ghanaians. It should preserve their goal scoring capabilities and add some more resilience to their defence. The Ghanaians definitely have the physical endurance and stamina to execute this without a problem. For Brazil, they will probably be better off in 2 ways – one is play a cautious game and be patient for Ghana to commit an error or 2 and then punish them. The other option is to take the game to Ghana and slow them down. I wonder if they will have the physical endurance to take the game to Ghana. So perhaps the cautious, patient play and punish tactical approach may suit them more, and perhaps it will give them a good chance of containing Ghana’s threat, which will not be easy.
All said and done, I think Ghana go into the game as favorites. The performances thus far, have been more convincing than that of the Brazilians. History also favors the Satellites. It’s their turn to win the trophy since Brazil won the last one when both sides met (this will be the 4th). Ghana is also at the U-20 World Cup final for the third time, and going by history, Ghana typically wins in such situations. The goal scoring prowess of the Ghanaians (2 or more goals per game) should continue. It’s a trademark for the team and it should not be difficult to maintain it. Much more often than not, that sort of performance is good enough for a win.