Some have said that Angola 2010 is a disaster waiting to happen for Ghana’s Black Stars. I would not begrudge anyone who holds this opinion given the realities on the ground. Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari, Derek Boateng, John Mensah and Laryea Kington are all out of the squad for one reason or the other. Injuries have threatened the performance of Michael Essien and Anthony Annan. Again, in all honesty, I am not sure of the added value of some of the players when there are better in-form and proven players available. The situation looks pretty scary and the alarmists are already having a field day.
Notwithstanding the seeming difficulties, there is an imp in my skull who keeps telling me not to give up on Ghana’s Black Stars easily. All hope is not lost. Ghana’s roaster may be missing important members of its potent midfield, while having too many rookie defenders, but things may not be as bad as they seem. One match at a time, Ghana could put up a serious challenge at the Nations Cup.
Ghana’s opening game against Togo on January 11th 2010 might go a long way to determine whether or not The Black Stars are going to overcome these pre-tournament challenges; run against all odds and put up a credible challenge. Apart from its potential morale-boosting effect, Ghana ought to win this game to prevent Togo from pulling even on the head-to-head scale. Since 1971, Ghana has met Togo 6 times in the Nations Cup. Of these 6 games, one ended in a draw, Togo has won twice and Ghana has won thrice. The Togo game is thus a must-win game.
Togo is probably one of the weakest teams of Angola 2010; coming out of 2009 with a 20% win record and managing only 5 goals out of 10 games while conceding a disgraceful 19 . The odds are against them with bookmakers (Paddy Power) offering 40-1 about their chances of winning the cup compared to Ghana’s 4-1. It might be in Togo’s interest to come into this game with a defensive plan. Already, Hubert Velud loves to pack his midfield in support of marksman Emmanuel Adebayor. A 4-5-1 game plan where they soak up the pressure and break on Ghana should not come as a surprise.
Since he took over in October 2009, Velud has won only one competitive game and he may want to come out with guns blazing against Ghana. Even if he goes for this option, it will probably still be through a packed midfield to support Emmanuel Adebayor, given that the other two strikers in camp are an uncapped Serge Nyuiadzi and rookie Jonathan Ayité who has won only 5 caps.
With all of Ghana’s camp woes, this Togo game should not pose much of a problem. If Milovan Rajevac fumbles with his central defensive pair, Emmanuel Adebayor might have a field day, but hopefully he will find the best pair of Eric Addo, Isaac Vorsah, Jonathan Mensah and Lee Ardey. Adebayor’s threat could however be watered down if Anthony Annan and Michael Essien find their game in defensive midfield and work to destroy Togo’s midfield agenda. Upfront, the combined threat of Kwadwo Asamoah, Haminu Draman, Ibrahim Ayew, Matthew Amoah and Asamoah Gyan should be enough to dismantle any defensive strategy the Togolese mount.
I predict a 3-1 win for Ghana. I doubt if Togo can score against Ghana, but this being the African Nations Cup, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Next stop – Ivory Coast. This one will be a notch higher than the Togolese game, but well, one step after the other.