The Black Stars of Ghana managed to pip their Kenyan counterparts in the final Group F clash of the 2019 AFCON Qualifier at the Accra Sports Stadium on Saturday in a game that starved spectators with sexy display of football.
A late strike by debutant Caleb Ekuban separated the two sides and catapulted Ghana to the summit of the table leaving the Harambee Stars of Kenya in second position.
The game, though not boring, was not impregnated with beautiful display of football and with goals not forthcoming; fans were left unamused with the Black Stars sweating to register the solitary win.
Many who were unhappy with the Black Stars’ inability to wallop their Kenyan counterparts were left complaining about poor display of football by Ghana, despite not applauding Kenya for a good show.
But was Ghana really poor on the day or Kenya was simply better? Was Kwasi Appiah rendered impotent on the field by Sebastien Migne or Kenya were just lucky not to have conceded too many goals?
Let the Sheikh’s Drawing Board decide.
Ghana’s Static Formation – 4-4-2
Ghana gaffer Kwasi Appiah approached the game with an orthodox 4-4-2 system with a game plan of scoring without conceding.
Richard Ofori as usual was placed between the sticks with late invitee Daniel Opare and Lumor Agbeyenu playing on the right and left sides of defence respectively while Hoffenheim defender Kassim Nuhu and Metz star John Boye playing at the heart of defence.
Mubarak Wakaso and Thomas Partey were placed at the heart of midfield to engineer the Ghana team while Andre Ayew and Christian Atsu played wide on the flanks with Jordan Ayew and Emmanuel Boateng leading the attack.
Kenya’sStatic Formation (4-2-3-1)
Sebastien Migne approached the game with a very cautious strategy knowing how Ghana are determined to aim their dick at his side after the Black Stars suffered a solitary defeat vin Nairobi last year.
Patrick Matasi was assigned with responsibilities of manning the post with the Otieno brothers Philimon and Erick deployed one the right and left sides of defence while Joash Onyango and Musah Mohammed starting in central defensive positions.
Victor Wanyama and Dennis Odhiambo were placed in front of the defence to provide them with the significant shield they needed while Omolo played in the middle of a trio of offensive midfielders of Kahata Kahata and Erick Omondi on the left and right leaving a lone attacker of Masud Juma up front.
From their static formations, the intentions of both teams were clear as to what they were out there to do. The game plan of Kwasi Appiah was to score without being scored, possibly more than a goal in the game while Migne had different ideas. The French trainer was out there with a game plan of keeping a clean sheet and catching the Ghanaians with swift counter attacks to get a goal or two before the game ends.
This explains the system of play of the Kenyans with two holding midfielders to water down any threat from Ghana. Wanyama and Odhiambo were to play a very defensive game with no rooms for errors as Ghana will capitalize and punish Kenya quickly.
While Munarak Wakaso was to supply their Ghana wingers and running striker with long balls, which he did perfectly, Migne made sure his men outnumbered Ghana in midfield just to frustrate the play of Kwasi Appiah’s boys and force them to lose focus and punish them.
Partey looked to have lost track of his role in the game, try to always walk with the ball and try to weave his way through the Kenya midfield which crumbled on almost all occasions.
With the Kenyan’s style of play of defending deep and parking the bus, Ghana had four options of winning the game.
- Rely on long balls
- Individual brilliance
- Excessive wing play
- Perfect use of set pieces
Kwasi Appiah and his men employed the first option which was swiftly countered by the Kenyans. Wakaso and Kassim Nuhu wewre on numerous occasions lifting the balls high for Atsu and Andre Ayew to pick, and on some occasions, Emmanuel Boateng runs to space for the ball. But the Kenyans doubled men on Atsu and Andre who destabilizes them anytime the long balls are sent. Atsu had it right on some few occasions but was easily closed down.
The second option – individual brilliance – was not seen on the day with only Atsu showing signs of trying to create something out of nothing. Knowing how dangerous Andre Ayew could be, Erick Otieno and Odhiambo always closed him down and did not allow him room to exhibit his individual brilliance.
Ghana could have explored the wing play much which Kwasi Appiah saw but was too little too late. Bringing on Ernest Asante for Andre Ayew meant that Kwasi Appiah saw the need to be smart on the wings in order to be able to achieve their target but it was too late to get the plan work. Atsu succeeded in some few occasions in taking on his markers, sending in some crosses but there were too many men on him.
So Kwasi Appiah could have brought on Caleb Ekuban earlier in the game by pulling out Emmanuel Boateng, drafting Andre Ayew deep into attack to play behind Jordan (as a no.10) and playing Asante on the right side of midfield so that Ghana could switch the wing play successfully.
With the way the Kenyans played, exercising too much caution and with Ghana not winning too many set pieces, it was hard to get the goals from set pieces. The only way could have been having two or three slippery players on the field to force the Kenyans to be rough and attract the set pieces to exploit that option. But did Ghana have the men to do that?
For me, I saw a different game contrary to what many viewed. I saw a game that was tactically fought by both coaches just that Ghana’s timing with regards to their substitutions was poor. The options bought on, however, were the right options Kwasi Appiah brought on.
However, Sebastien Migne was spot on with his tactics and changes. Promising future for Kenya.