The Black Stars of Ghana are out of the 2019 African Cup of Nations following a disappointing exit on penalties to the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.
The loss in Ismailia, which came after a patchy Stars performance, brings to an end an impressive run by the Black Stars of making at least the semi-finals in the last six African Cup of Nations.
Despite failing to win the trophy in that time, Ghana had at least staked a claim as the most consistent team on the continent, ensuring we retain our favourites tag for each subsequent tournament, borne out by two finals appearances in 2010 and 2015 during that run.
Through 5 coaches and six tournaments, Ghana maintained this record until Kwesi Appiah the serial failure entered the equation and messed it up. Since our last Afcon failure in 2006, Claude LeRoy, Milovan Rajevac, Goran Stevanovic, Appiah himself in 2013 and Avram Grant have all kept this run going, until Appiah this year.
Barring failure to win the trophy, the semis have become the minimum expectation of our coaches and unsurprisingly, Appiah was unable to achieve it.
Jose Mourinho once stung Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal coach, by describing him a ‘specialist in failure‘. It was a harsh if accurate critique of one of the greatest coaches the game has ever seen who had sadly and stubbornly declined at that point.
But that tag perfectly fits our current and hopefully soon-to-be former coach, James Kwesi Appiah. Appiah is a serial and miserable failure who deserves that critique more than Arsene Wenger ever did.
This fiasco he oversaw in Egypt is just the latest in a long line of failures stretching all the way back to the 2014 World Cup which prove Appiah should be nowhere near this team, yet his Ghanaian skin and his yes-man nature keeps him in a job, even to this day.
Appiah’s two tenures as Black Stars head coach have been characterized by poor play, serial failure and setting unwanted records ‘byheart’.
The former national team captain was appointed as Black Stars coach in 2012 following another massive failure, Goran Stevanovic, who took the Stars to the 2012 Afcon semis but got kicked out by Zambia, who eventually won the tournament under Herve Renard.
He had a short period to get the team ready for the 2013 Afcon, with the tournament being held in consecutive years due to the shift from odd to even years, and managed to comfortably qualify the team to the tournament.
However, the 2013 tournament was the first real failure of Appiah’s tenure. In a tournament quite similar to the current one in that most of the big names were kicked out indiscriminately, Appiah and his team failed to take advantage of that and lost a semifinal game to Burkina Faso. It was the first real warning sign that Appiah does not have the stones to coach at the highest level but it was ignored as the World Cup qualifiers where just around the horizon.
The 2014 World Cup qualifiers to this day remains the high point of Kwesi Appiah’s tenure as Ghana coach, which tells you how poor everything else has been in that a qualifying phase is his magnum opus. Appiah led a swashbuckling Stars team including Kevin-Prince Boateng, an imperious Gyan and Ayew to bulldoze all competition on the way to the tournament, ending up with an unforgettable 6-1 trashing of the Pharaohs of Egypt in the playoffs, in the process becoming the first black coach to lead the team to the Mundial
That remains the greatest achievement Appiah has chalked as coach of the Black Stars, as everything else that follows has been a miserable failure. He failed miserably at the 2014 World Cup as he chalked up the unwanted record of being the first coach to get Ghana kicked out of the World Cup at the Group stage. He somehow contrived to lose to the U.S.A, the one team Ghana had beaten in every world cup prior, inflaming Ghanaians even more when he said post-match that he was keeping his best players on the bench till the time the U.S players ‘got tired’.
What happened off the pitch in Brazil was even more disgraceful, as Appiah lost complete control of the team, leading to the Prince and Sulley fiascos and to a degree, the flying of cash debacle.
Financial issues are never the purview of the coach, but one feels a more charismatic or disciplined coach would have kept his team on a tighter leash and mitigated that disaster. It’s hard to imagine what happened in Brazil happening under a coach like Milovan Rajevac, who was notorious for his no-nonsense style as head coach of the Stars.
The Brazil debacle ended Kwesi Appiah’s first spell in charge of Ghana, which on balance was already a failure. He had two impressive qualifying campaigns but failed at both tournaments – the 2013 Afcon and the 2014 World Cup. Losing an Afcon semi-final to Burkina Faso was a fireable offence in itself before adding the misery in Brazil.
Yet, after Avram Grant was let go as Coach, Appiah was brought on board for a second spell which has been even worse than the first. This time, even his impressive qualifying record went right out the window, failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup (albeit after Avram Grant had already poisoned the soup) and then barely making it out of a qualifying group for this Afcon with the ‘mighty’ Kenya.
I don’t even have to add what happened at this Afcon to the list as it’s pretty fresh in our minds and no one needs any reminder.
Ghana played 4 games at this tournament, winning only one against the might of Guinea-Bissau. We drew three and won one of the four games he managed during 2018 World Cup qualifying. He has lost or drawn virtually every ‘big game’ Ghana has played during his second spell, with the exception being a win against Kenya in Kumasi – with Kenya only getting big game designation due to Appiah himself failing to dispatch them comfortably as most other Ghana coaches would have done.
To recap, Appiah has failed as coach at the 2013 Afcon, the 2014 World Cup and the 2019 Afcon. His only ‘success’ was qualifying the team to the 2014 World Cup, a feat achieved 6 years ago and immediately negated by failure at the tourney proper. He has earned unwanted records as the first coach in a decade to fail to take the Black Stars to an Afcon semi, the first coach to get Ghana kicked out of the World Cup group stages and the first coach since 2006 to fail in a World Cup qualifying campaign. His Afcon exit at the hands of Burkina Faso remains a particularly Black mark before we even add what happened against Tunisia Monday night.
In juxtaposition with all these, his one success is a lonely island in a sea of failures and Appiah, if he has any integrity, would bugger off with his miserable failure rate and find something else to do.
Perhaps this commenter was right and he should be a pastor, counsellor or join a Pentecost singing band – because there’s no space on the Black Stars bench for a miserable failure like him.