The way Ghana played at the 2012 AFCON tournament; it was only a matter of time that some team punished the Black Stars. What other way to bring down the Stars than with a compact copper bullet from Zambia. Thirty years of waiting – so close, yet so far!
After waiting all this while, many a Ghanaian felt destiny had beckoned Ghana to come lift the cup. The coach, Goran Stevanovic, had played a big role in creating this mindset as he kept promising Ghanaians the trophy.
The road to the trophy however had one trap – Zambia! The Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) from Zambia had vowed to stand between Ghana and the trophy and on the day Ghana appeared to have played their best game at AFCON 2012, cookie crumbled.
It all started when Gyan missed an 8th minute penalty. Ghana could have won this game if they took other subsequent chances which fell to them. Sometime in the second half, the Zambians got half of a chance; Mayuka Emmanuel took a beautifully placed shot which broke 24 million hearts and silenced a nation.
Typically the question will be begged all year whether Goran Stevanovic’s lackadaisical attitude to his work did not cost Ghana this trophy. Many other factors were also at play here, but the buck must stop somewhere. The blame should be placed in Stevanovic’ back yard.
Questions about Goran Stevanovic’s attitude to his job, his ability to map out winsome strategies against tougher oppositions, player selection philosophy and motivation had lingered even before Stevanovic named his AFCON 2012 squad.
For instance, it was very difficult to understand why a coach of Ghana will hardly step foot in Ghana; sit in his home country in Serbia and imagine he can win trophies in Africa. It was even more confounding how after one year at post Goran Stevanovic had no clue how to deal with Ghana’s lateral defence problems. For the first time since 2006, we saw a Ghanaian bench which looked stressed, confused and demoralized game after game.
Goran Stevanovic took a Ghana team which was flying high in Africa and World football and killed its morale. Should he continue this way, the dark days where Ghana could not even win games, let alone present a credible challenge at the Nations Cup are bound to return.
In Stevanovic’s defense, some have said that he does not know his players. But that argument falls flat in the face of common sense. Others have said that AFCON 2012 is not as important as AFCON 2013 because the winner of AFCON 2013 will represent Africa in the FIFA Confederations Cup. While this is a nice way of soothing Ghanaian hearts, there is no guarantee that this coach who cannot motivate his team enough can marshal a superior strategy to win qualifiers.
On December 18th, 2011 when Goran Stevanovic held a press conference to announce his interim 25-man squad, he promised to resign if he fails to take Ghana to the finals of AFCON 2012. For once, Stevanovic should stick to his word and just do the honourable thing and quit otherwise he should be fired by the Ghana FA.
If the Ghana FA still trusts this coach to take Ghana to South Africa and win the trophy, then they will have to call him to order to take his job more seriously. Ghana deserves better than this kind of lethargy.
The way it is, a third-place playoff win against Mali will not be enough compensation for Ghanaians.