The Black Stars have qualified for the Orange CAN 2012 in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea come January 2012. Serbian manager, Goran Stevanovic who has come under some pressure over his player selection policy, will be a happy man.
First, this will be a major resume-embellishing accomplishment for him. Also, he will know that he has one hand on the trophy already. CAN2012 will not have some of Africa’s most exciting and perennial title-contenders. Egypt will not be there to defend their title. Nigeria, Cameroun and South Africa are among those teams who will be missing in action.
Stevanovic is thus in poll position to set a record as the first expatriate to lead Ghana to Nations Cup glory. His Serbian predecessor, Milovan Rajevac, came close to the coveted title in 2010. Ghanaians will not expect less from Stevanovic, especially with Ghana being the most experienced and accomplished team in this tournament of first-timers.
However weak CAN 2012 may appear, there are unresolved weaknesses in the Black Stars set up which may end up being the Achilles’ Tendon for Ghana in this ‘Battle of Two Goliaths [Ghana, Ivory Coast] and Twelve Davids’.
Under Stevanovic, Ghana has virtually crumbled under every world-class opposition. The Black Stars were seconds away from defeat to a second-string England; they lost to South Korea and fell to Brazil.
Unless they pull their usual tournament-choking-stunt and get eliminated, Ivory Coast is likely to cross Ghana’s path somewhere in the elimination stages of CAN 2012. Again, at least two tough but less fancied teams like Mali, Burkina-Faso, Angola or Tunisia must be defeated if Ghana is to challenge for glory. This is where Plavi must earn his salary.
Something is not right with the possession game of the Black Stars. At the rate at which the players lost balls, one often got the sense that had Ghana played more fancied sides during these qualifiers, the consequences may have been heart-breaking. If Ghana is to avoid an epic fail at CAN 2012, Stevanovic may have to work harder at having his team keep the ball.
Defense, Red Cards and Vorsah
There is no gain reminding readers of the price Ghana paid at CAN 2008 when then coach Claude Leroy refused to strengthen Ghana’s central defence in spite of the clear warning signals.
Stevanovic will face a similar challenge at CAN 2012. Isaac Vorsah is likely to miss a couple of games at CAN 2012. No coach worth his salt will bank his hopes on John Mensah playing the full 90 minutes in all 6 games without picking injuries. It should not take a genius to observe that Ghana’s defence gets physical under pressure and are likely to take cards as the tournament progresses.
In the absence of the trusted Vorsah and anticipating Mensah’s usual problems, the central defensive position may well be the weakest link in Ghana cup-winning campaign. Jonathan Mensah, John Boye and Lee Addy are the most likely candidates. The trouble with some of these players however is that their match-fitness has always been in doubt. Most of them are inactive players living on some past performance.
What if there is no Gyan?
One of Stevanovic’s promises to Ghana was to win cups through attacking football. So far, he has delivered on the attacking football promise. Under stevanovic, Ghana has scoredin all games except one (the Brazil game). Guess who missed that game? Gyan!
For far too long, we have pretended that all is well with Ghana’s attack. So long as Gyan can score his trademark one goal and the midfielders and sometimes defenders were getting on target, we did not care to oil the attack machinery with sharper strikers.
The mind-bending question is; should Gyan miss the 2012 tournament, can we trust Prince Tagoe and Dominic Adiyiah to step up their game? With two months left to prepare for CAN 2012, there is probably nothing much Stevanovic can do, in terms of scouting for trustworthy strikers. He can however work on his tactics to bring the best out of some of these often very unreliable strikers.
Taken on whole, there should be no reason why Ghana cannot win her 5th Nations Cup trophy in 2012!