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FEATURE: The Sheikh’s Drawing Board – How Ghana were humiliated by Nigeria in the WAFU Zone B U20 tournament

Ghana were reduced to nothing on Wednesday afternoon by Nigeria in the WAFU Zone B U20 tournament ongoing on Togo, sending the Black Satellites packing from the competition.

Following Nigeria’s goalless stalemate with Niger in their opening clash, no one expected the men from Igboland to subject their West African neighbors to such humiliation.

A 2-1 or 3-2 score line would have been respectable but to lose 4-2 is not just humiliating but an extreme disrespect to the Ghanaian colours.

But what led to Ghana’s defeat? Was the results a true reflection of the game? Were Ghana ready for the tournament? What at all could account for Ghana finishing point-less in a group with Niger and Nigeria?

Let’s find out.

I got to Lomé a day after Ghana had played the opening game with Niger. The reports, from coaches and several observers, were that Ghana created chances but failed to score in the clash with Niger. But the Satellites team I saw yesterday against Nigeria were not just inefficient but simply not up to the level.

Ahead of the game, my observation of the team before kickoff clearly was a definition of lack of confidence. With about 3 hours to the game, the players came out of their rooms, sat close to the pool at the Ghis Palace Hotel, ready to board the bus to the stadium. The posture and demeanor of the boys gave me the impression that Ghana have lost the game already. They were nervous, timid, showed lack of confidence and looked unready for the game. I went close to the team, took some pictures and left.

Obviously, the lack of confidence demonstrated ahead of the game showed on the field, hence the results.

Another observation made during the game was pressure, which is obviously the first born of lack of confidence. The players played under pressure throughout the first half hence the countless mistakes made. But for the solo-effort of Toku that broke the virginity of the game, Ghana would have finished the half without a shot on target. There was no patience for the players to build attacks, the defenders played with no composure and confidence, the midfielders were committing errors instead of correcting them, and the attack was nonexistent as Stephen Amankonah and Elvis Kyei Baffour were mere passengers.

There was no sign of Ghana scoring against that spirited Nigerian side from open play but the few set pieces that could fetch Ghana some goals were also blown wide.

One area that affected Ghana greatly was poor defending. The defending was not only poor but unintelligent, flat and lacked technique. Ghana’s right back Adrian Adjetey was not just poor but piss-poor. This is a player who lacked the basics of even playing as a no.2. It was shocking to see that any time his goalkeeper picks the ball, he runs forward as a winger instead of opening up wide to open up the field for space. I was not surprised seeing the coach fight him on so many occasions. The only bright spot in the team was Muntari Kamahena at the left back position for Ghana. In simple terms, he knew his role and played it well. For the central defensive pair of Konda and Mayonu, Jimmy Cobblah will have to start fasting and prayers if they are his trusted pair for the U20 AFCON.

Konda showed lack of confidence in the game and struggled to even tailor a proper pass. Mayonu was a little better but was just kicking the ball anyhow. You could see he was scared of committing mistakes and always was swift to release the ball and ended up committing countless.

Ghana had a poor outing hence the embarrassing results but the physical advantage of Nigerians can’t be underestimated. The goliath-like Nigerians were simply too strong for the dwarf-like Ghanaians. The only way the Ghanaian players could have gone round the Nigerians was to allow them to run a lot by kicking the ball around and not to contest them in strength. Their level of energy, power and pace outclassed that of Ghana.

Regardless, Ghana could have had a way out to grab a win but the team simply bowed to the men from Igboland.

A lot needs to be done – from technical to management through to the playing body if Ghana want to improve a and stage a good performance at the U20 AFCON in Niger next year.

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