One would have thought that Angolans would douse our pains after the Cabinda massacre with an awesome opening ceremony, but it was not to be. In my opinion, the ceremony was flat, hollow and carried no entertainment value. I guess that is the level of Angola. But this is not the purpose of this article. Since Ghana is likely to meet one of the four teams in Group A, I wish to state some observations I made during the opening game and point out some key lessons to learn.
The opening game of Angola 2010 lived up to the billing. It was exciting and produce 8 goals. Mali should be the happy side after this game, coming down from a 4-0 drubbing to pull a 4-4 draw.
At the end of Ghana 2008, the general consensus among many a pundit was that, Angola with its Manuchos and Flavios will take Africa by storm in the near future. And what a way to prove the pundits right – tearing star-studded Mali into shreds for most part of the game.
There are important lessons Ghana could learn from this game. First, football is not about individual stars, neither is it about which clubs they play for. Rather we have 8 U-20 boys and 12 rookies who are a solid unit than 23 uncommitted world-class players.
Secondly, if Ghana is to meet Angola in the quarter finals, then Milovan will have to find experienced lateral defenders and quick canter backs. Angola’s game plan against Mali was very simple – Get the ball forward to the opponents attacking third, then pass it diagonally to the wing (mostly the right wing), the wingers will then find the cultured head of Flavio or the height of Manucho. How Stephen Keshi failed to read this simple game, beats my imagination. Even if Keshi could read the game plan, the accuracy of the passes sent to the wingers, the speed of the forwards and the passion with which Angola’s wingers poured forward was too much for the overhyped Malians.
But Angola is not all that. They do have weaknesses. They are clumsy in central defence and weak in the laterals. Their goal keeper fumbles with balls and I am not convinced he can handle a real attacking threat. Lastly, they tire off quickly and tend to lose concentration towards the end of the game.
Mali on the other hand may have just woken up from their dream and are smelling the coffee. By this time they may have realized that they have a weak technical bench and a totally uncoordinated team. The Malians have no midfield without Keita. Even when Keita is putting up his best performance, his department almost always leave target man Kanoute hanging. One a number of occasions when the Malian midfield clicked , their weakness in shooting was apparent.
The Malians however showed some potential. The showed their ability to string passes together in defence -splitting fashion. Their aerial threat cannot be overlooked, likewise the potential danger of their dead ball skills.
In looking ahead, Ghana could meet any of these teams in the quarter finals. A few months back, Ghana exposed the Malians by beating them 0-2 in their own backyard. Ghana then sent a second-string team to draw with Angola in Luanda. These are teams Ghana can handle, but their strengths need to be accounted for.
While we look ahead, we have a group to come out from. So, I guess first things must come first.