“When I get older… I will be stronger … They will call me freedom … just like a waving flag …and then it goes back… oh oo o ” … Four years ago, Somalia’s K’naan rose to prominence with this theme song for the World Cup in South Africa, and while Shakira’s Waka Waka had a groove about it, Waving Flag just tugged at your heart strings in a special way…
Four years ago, Nana Borro’s “Aha y3d3” became another unofficial theme song, especially after Ghana games; Four years ago, Octopus Paul was your go to guy for match predictions; Four years ago, the Cedi was 1.4 to the Dollar…. Oh how the times have changed since the last World Cup!
But those moments are back; those moments when you, including your boss, steal office hours; dash from the office to the pub or rush home, if your wife is the “house master” type, to catch the action live on TV, or simply tune in to radio commentary from your car. For one long month from June 12 – July 13, our daily routines will be rearranged because the 2014 FIFA World Cup is here; live from the home of football, Brazil! and you know what that means; a football party!
For us this side of the Atlantic, we are concerned with how our beloved Black Stars would kick start the campaign against perennial World Cup foes, United States of America (USA), on Monday June 16, 2200 GMT in Natal. In keeping with the World Cup fever, I have got a couple of tips for Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah on how to beat the USA from a purely scientific angle, nothing Kwaku Bonsam-ish. And oh, while I am at it, I will attempt an ideal line up too.
Arrest Michael Bradley
US Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a former German international, recently stated that formations do not matter as much as tactics. In the lead up to the tournament, Klinsmann has departed from his favoured 4-2-3-1 in favour of a diamond 4-4-2 and tried several combinations with different players, although one has been ever present; Michael Bradley, son of former US and Egypt Coach Bob Bradley.
Klinsmann has tinkered and tweaked the formations just to find the right shape that will optimize Bradley’s skill set. Klinsmann found that shape in their last friendly against Nigeria. He deployed Bradley on top of the diamond, giving him the freedom to roam as he pressed high and also created openings for forwards Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey to sneak in on goal. Bradley possesses the physical attributes to ward off challenges, control the ball and draw his players in, before picking the clever pass.
He is essentially, the key cog, in turning the wheels of the US team from a defensive shape to an offensive one. I would expect Rabiu Mohammed not only to police him but absolutely arrest and cuff his legs.
While paying attention to the Michael Bradley in the middle of the park, another threat looms from right back in the shape of Fabian Johnson. The US while staying organized defensively, will transition quickly with swift counter attacks in wide areas especially through Johnson, whose bursts has resulted in goals especially in the friendly versus Turkey.
Veteran DaMarcus Beasley would be deployed at left back for his experience and Andre Ayew should find loads of joy from that wing with Beasley short on pace. Johnson’s runs can be curtailed by pressing him in his own half. Though Sulley Muntari isn’t known to be a workhorse, his stature and pedigree will force Johnson to minimize his runs. Once the wings are shut, the US might be forced to go through the middle.
And while Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, who are expected to shield the defense and release Bradley to create, will no doubt put in great shifts, their first touch and close control is weak. I will expect Kevin Prince Boateng, supported from deep by Kwadwo Asamoah, to finally show some desire and effort by pressing Jones and Beckerman, that way, the US will lose possession in dangerous areas where Muntari can drift in and surprise Tim Howard with his trademark pilers or feed Asamoah Gyan and Boateng to do damage.
Kwadwo Asamoah in Midfield
All this while, the emphasis has been on how to foil US tactics but it is also essential for the Black Stars to also to play to their strength while sealing some gaps. Some of those gaps are in defense.
I still maintain that Michael Essien be played alongside Jonathan Mensah in central defense because experience and intelligence is required at the back; deploy Daniel Opare at right back and Harrison Afful at left back. Yes Afful in place of Kwadwo Asamoah who played there in the last friendly versus South Korea.
Kwadwo may have looked comfortable in the South Korean friendly but that side was barely attacked. If you noticed from the analysis above, a lot of tactical movement will be channeled by the US from the midfield and it will take more than physical sweat to counter that threat; it will take a player who combines work ethic, imagination and technique to destruct and create at the same time. Kwadwo is that player and Ghana is best served by playing him as a deep lying playmaker and not left back.
The game is hours away and while US wait to exact revenge on Ghana for eliminating her in the last 2 World Cups, Ghanaians will simply be concerned with a good start; 3 points to cushion her for a major surprise against super powers Germany and Portugal.
A tall task it may seem, but the higher the odds, the greater our resolve! Like 4 years ago, we have a local theme song in that regard. Daddy Lumba echoes it best when he says “Y3ntie obiaa”!
Article submitted by Nii Ayitey Tetteh
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