Nations Cup Qualifier: Congo vrs Ghana – defence will be key

Jerry Rawlings, Ghana's ex-President: “This is the best team ever to be assembled in Ghana. Let’s start our march to the title by beating Congo in Brazzaville on Sunday”

Much was said in praise of Goran Stevanovic when he led Ghana to beat Togo 4-1 in a friendly. But that game was just a friendly. Ghana wasn’t going to gain any real benefits from winning that game. Besides, without disrespecting Togo, that game did not present Ghana with any real challenge. Tomorrow, Sunday, 27th March, 2010, however, Plavi faces his first test when he leads Ghana in a competitive game against Congo in Brazzaville.

The difficulty of Plavi’s task in this game seems to have been played down, but they are clear and present. Ghana goes into the Congo game without key players Asamoah Gyan (facing a red card ban), Kevin Prine Boateng (doubtful injury) and Opoku Agyemang (missing passport).

Also, anything but a win will threaten Ghana’s position on the table and subsequent qualification, especially after Ghana failed to beat Sudan at home. Here is how John Paintsil puts it: “The plan was to win maximum points at home but after drawing with Sudan at home, there is the need to win away which makes this match very crucial.”

It is now up to Plavi show that the Togo win was no fluke by marshalling what resource he has left to rise to these challenges. For starters, it appears that Plavi has gotten the atmosphere right. Nii Nortey Duah (Deputry Minister of Sports) has said consistently since joining the team at their Kenyan base that “Players are happy and the moral in camp is high.”

Next, Plavi is expected to get his tactics right and have the best players execute it. This is where it gets tricky. Throughout these qualifiers, Congo has proven that even though they are beatable, they are a scoring side. Of the two games played, they have scored 3 goals and conceded as many. This is in sharp contrast to Ghana’s two clean sheets with 3 goals scored.

On this record alone, Ghana should not find it difficult scoring on Sunday. More so when Prince Tagoe, Ghana’s striking hope, comes into this game on a fantastic scoring run in for Partizan in Serbia.

It appears to me that defence will be a key factor to separate the two teams. If Ghana is to beat Congo, Plavi must find a smart way to organize his defence against the scoring Congolese. Since the last round of qualifiers, Ghana has replaced the much defensive Milovan Rajevac with a more attack minded Plavi. We are yet to see the implications on Ghana’s defensive play yet.

There is no question though that Ghana will move forward, and Ghana will score. The Congolese will fill their stadium, try to intimidate the Ghanaians, but there is hardly any Ghanaian player today who hasn’t seen an oversized crowd several time.

I predict that the Black Stars will bring home all the three points.


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