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Analysis: Kwesi Appiah’s 8 observations from Netherlands 1-0 Ghana

Michael Essien

Two important things have happened in the last 24 hours. Ghana lost to Netherlands 1-0, and the final 23 Black Stars players were named for the World Cup.

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Citi Sports editor Gary Al-Smith believes though Ghana did not field a first-string starting XI or anything close to it for the entire duration of the Netherlands friendly, there are problems. And some notable points as well.

1. Gyan is almost irreplaceable

If this were a bout, Asamoah Gyan’s perceived importance to the Black Stars would have been given a unanimous victory.

Voted only weeks ago as the 2013 Footballer of the Year by the Sports Writers Association of Ghana, there still remains a section of people who believe Gyan’s dominance of the UAE league does not make him good enough to be world class.

But even they cannot dispute the vacuum created when he is absent.

Against the Dutch, Jordan Ayew started up front. It was quickly clear that he was heavily reliant on balls from the midfield. Caught in that situation, Gyan – on the contrary – would drop and try to get the ball himself. He did that a lot during the qualifiers.

In a game where Ghana also recorded no shots on target, it is clear Gyan’s precociousness with long shots was missed.

Easily the Black Stars best striker in their last six tournaments, the former Sunderland man scored 45 goals in 42 games in the UAE this season and was joint-top scorer in the African World Cup qualifiers, together with Egypt’s Mohammed Aboutreika.

He’s still Ghana’s undisputed champion.

2. Schlupp gives Ghana hope at left-back. Accam too

The country woke up on Sunday morning to the news that Leicester City’s Jeffery Schlupp and Helsingborg’s David Accam had been axed from the team, with a horrible ankle injury forcing defender Jerry Akaminko to miss the flight to Brazil as well.

But in Schlupp, Ghana truly have a hope that the left-back problem that has worried the team for almost a decade, will be sorted out soon.

His display against the Netherlands may have been uninspiring, but Schlupp’s potential to be a starter for Ghana in the next year is there for all to see.

Having been consistent with his club and helping them on to promotion for next season’s English Premier League, the German-born player should get regular playing time in one of the world’s best leagues before Ghana’s next major tournament in January.

David Accam is a luxury at this point in time. There are players in the current team who easily beat him to a place in the team based on pragmatism alone.

They can do what Accam does – and they have experience to boot. He was competing for a place with Andre Ayew, Christian Atsu and Kwadwo Asamoah.

Tough luck.

3. Afriyie Acquah’s emphatic statement

Accam’s tough luck involved having some of Ghana’s best players to contend with. But with Michael Essien waning in power and durability, Afriyie Acquah (Parma, Italy) has come into the Ghana team at a time he will be badly needed.

Michael Essien’s career problems at national level are well documented, and you get the feeling that Kwesi Appiah wants to give the Bison a proper crack at a World Cup before he says farewell to the tournament.

But it’s difficult to see Essien playing consistent 90 minute games in Brazil.

Normally, Rabiu Mohammed (Kuban Krasnodar, Russia) would have been a naturally replacement. Unfortunately, he is also only recently coming back from injury and as evidenced against the Dutch, needs a few games to get into the groove.

Afriyie Acquah is red and ready, on the back of a strong season for Parma and looking very much like a 24-year old Michael Essien.

4. Kwarasey over Fatau Dauda, please

Any arguments about who should be in goal for Ghana must have been settled by now. Adam Larsen Kwarasey’s biggest problem has been a consistent lack of big game temperament.

Against the World Cup runners-up from the last time, he was sharp.

“If it wasn’t for their very good goalkeeper and our own carelessness, Ghana should have been down 3-0 at half time,” noted Louis van Gaal after the game.

Having not seen Kwarasey at such a level in a while, it was refreshing to see that he has added “the Schmeichel save” to his repertoire. Distribution has always been a strong point of his, as has reaction from long balls.

Ghana’s first choice until now has been South-Africa based Fatau Dauda, but his severe lack of games will make it hard to justify benching the Norway-based Kwarasey in Brazil.

5. The defence is a mess

The best known secret in Ghanaian football was blown to bits on Saturday night: the defensive situation borders on critical now.

Inexperience, lack of composure, lack of communication and general leadership problems highlighted the way the Stars played.

Even with Akaminko around, his partnership with Rashid Sumaila was exposed by the fluid Dutch attack.

Now that Jerry is out, what gives? Sumaila-Jonathan Mensah at center-back? A John Boye and Jonathan Mensah combo looks most likely, but that looks brittle against the kind of barrage likely to meet them against USA, Portugal and Germany.

Which takes us to the next point.

Ghana's Rashid Sumaila against Robin van Persie

Ghana’s Rashid Sumaila against Robin van Persie

6. The Michael Essien issue

The 31-year old may have just reached a point in his career where he has to reinvent himself one final time.

When Jose Mourinho asked him to play at right back for Real Madrid, Ess immediately agreed and was fairly decent. Not close to sterling, but fairly decent.

This time, Michael will be needed as a center-back. Indeed, this option has been heavily discussed in the past month by local media and now it looks like a necessity.

His preferred defensive midfield role can be handled by a combination of either or all of Afriyie Acquah, Rabiu Mohammed and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu.

Kwesi Appiah has told a few confidantes that he is seriously considering Essien as a center-half (what is traditionally called ‘a number four’), so that Jonathan Mensah or John Boye features as a center-back (‘number five’).

With Jerry Akaminko out due to injury, sources say this is now an almost dead certainty and will happen in at least one of the Ghana games in Brazil.

7. Albert Adomah was poor, but he will work

At first glance, it’s hard to see why Adomah is loved by the boss.

He seems like just a mechanical version of Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, but without the excess stopovers. Adomah is very English in his play down the flanks.

But his timing, concentration and work-rate against the Netherlands were horrible. So why is he going to Brazil?

Simply because against Holland, he had an off day. I struggle to recall when the Middlesbrough player has not played to instruction in a Ghana shirt, and that’s why he is on that plane.

I’ve interviewed Kwesi Appiah enough times to know that – like all coaches – anyone who does exactly as he says will be a favorite. A pastor calls this trait “obedience”. The football man calls it “tactical discipline.”

8. Kwadwo must take his place

You buy a Ferrari. You sit inside. You turn on the ignition. You expect a powerful, heart-pleasing roar from the engine’s bowels.

What you get is a meow.

That is Ghana’s situation with Kwadwo Asamoah. His tactical disposition is up there with the best of them, but he must know that great players are those who stand up to be counted in murky situations.

Kwadwo Asamoah has speed in abundance. He has creativity in ounces. He has power in that left-foot to deliver at least five long rangers a game.

But he chooses to simply run and down the wings, link up and do an efficient job.

It is even embarrassing to remember that a few years ago, Asamoah was offered the legendary number ten shirt as heir to Stephen Appiah and let it go because of the pressure associated with it.

If Ghana should go far in Brazil, certain players must fulfill the destiny their immense talent requires. The Juventus man is on top of that list.

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by: Gary Al-Smith/Citifmonline.com/Ghana