Black Stars friendlies: Five things we learnt from Otto Addo’s team

Two down, one more to go at least per the official communiqué from the Ghana Football Association (GFA) before Ghana’s Black Stars journey to Qatar to compete in the FIFA World Cup for the fourth time. Switzerland is next in the friendly fire of the Black Stars ahead of the latter’s run in Qatar but judging by the less than impressive showings against Nicaragua and Brazil, the GFA might end up pulling some strings to get the Stars another pre-World Cup test.

A chastening by Brazil and a close win over Nicaragua in the face of profligacy by the Black Stars hasn’t done the team or head coach Otto Addo a lot of good when it comes to building the support base’s confidence ahead of the World Cup. With Ghana as the lowest ranked team heading to Qatar, conceding goals from set pieces with the scorers bagging goals unmarked inside the box is a big worry.

Working to prevent conceding goals from set pieces and working to score goals from set pieces is an honourable mention in the standout items observed from Ghana’s friendly games. However, there are more issues that popped up on the radar in fixtures against Brazil and Nicaragua.

Dede Ayew showed off his Marketing and Political Prowess

Black Stars Captain Andre Dede Ayew’s infamous statement in an interview with Al Jazeera grabbed the headlines in the lead up to the matchup against Nicaragua. By stirring massive controversy over who or who isn’t a “senior player”, Dede indirectly and pretty much single handedly, made the friendly a must watch game as much as the Brazilian encounter.

Folks were on the lookout for the starting lineup to judge how much influence the fallout from the interview would play in personnel selection for the game. Dede Ayew played the political game well by attaching a caveat to his “senior players” comment to avoid communicating his deep thoughts to the Black Stars technical team in a brash way.

Inference is a source of information and inferring the advantage senior players have in making the final cut for the Qatar trip showed the Al Sadd player is quite savvy. For such an experienced figure who has been through several media rounds, Dede Ayew could have easily avoided the deep dive into his thoughts about player rankings.

How long can Otto Addo continue to be reactive?

Black Stars head coach Otto Addo has shown his proclivity to try something new in games as he did fixing Gideon Mensah as a left center back in Abuja against Nigeria. That was a bold call in a hostile environment to fix a player who started his career as an exclusive winger in defence. However, a running theme in Addo’s tenure as the lead tactician is improvement from his team in the second half of games.

Otto Addo

Bar the matchup against Central African Republic where Ghana played poorly in the second half after a bright first half display, second halves have been great for Ghana. Ghana played better against Nigeria to qualify to the World Cup and bagged all three goals against Madagascar in the second half in a 2023 AFCON qualifier.

Against Brazil and Nicaragua, it was the same improvement on first half displays in the second half but how long can a team that struggles to score goals continue down this path? At the World Cup, Ghana won’t have such luxury and Otto Addo needs to be more proactive than reactive to give Ghana its best chance of winning games.

Jordan Ayew

Team’s greater good should be prioritized over accommodating Ayew Bros

Place the production against the number of appearances and extensive minutes played on another player without the Ayew surname on the back of his jersey and that player would have been ousted from the team a long time ago.

However, Dede and Jordan Ayew are practical mainstays in the team irrespective of form and at this point in their careers, forcing the pair on the team is wrong. Andre works best for the team as a backup central forward while Jordan’s minutes ought to be slashed until he shows something beyond the minimum of working hard for the team.

Inaki Williams

Having the likes of Inaki doesn’t mean Andre Ayew must be forced into midfield to accommodate his ego because playing Year 2022 Ayew in midfield alongside Kudus Mohammed and Baba Idrissu affects the team’s balance.

Salisu is the Truth

Salisu blocks off Brazil’s Cunha

When the talent is high, the level of tolerance is high and Southampton defender Mo Salisu embodies this perfectly by delivering top level performances in his first run outs with the Black Stars. After along wait for the former Real Valladolid player to make his Black Stars debut, it’s clear the wait was worth it. Salisu demonstrated great composure to kill off attacks, build up play from deep while serving as an aerial threat on set pieces.

Three Man Backline is the Way

Tariq Lamptey thrives in a wing back role

Otto Addo has shown on multiple occasions he is most comfortable setting his team up to play with three men at the back even if he lines them up on paper with four men at the back. Like Brazil, playing with three defenders plays into the strengths of a playing personnel that has speedy, creative and versatile players who can switch positions seamlessly and still deliver top performances.

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