For Ghana this was the tournament that promised so much but in reality achieved so little. On paper the Black Stars had one of the most promising teams going in the African Cup of Nations 2012 with their mix of young, up-and-coming stars playing alongside their experienced counterparts. Yet a string of injuries, poor discipline and changing formations meant some of Africa’s finest talent were left frustrated with their performances in this year’s tournament.
Having made it through the qualification stages of the competition undefeated, scoring 13 goals and only conceding the once, Ghana were rightly named as one of the favourites to win the tournament alongside Ivory Coast, yet it seems it was this early pressure that led to the team’s demise in the tournament.
Before the tournament even began every man and his dog had it drummed into their head that Ghana were a cert to effortlessly stroll to the final and eventually win the competition. It seems the players also bought into this hype as their determination on the pitch was absent. A team that was once known for their enthralling performances expected to win games against Guinea and Botswana without putting in any effort.
In fact I doubt the Black Stars will be proud of any performance they put in during the tournament. Despite dominating possession in all of their group games goal-scoring opportunities were hard to come by. This could be blamed on one of two reasons. Firstly Ghana had very few attacking options in their 23-man squad. The pressure was unfairly put on frontman Asamoah Gyan to perform who was yet to return to full fitness after injury. Secondly the Black Stars bizarrely seemed to like finishing games with only 10 men. 3 times in the competition Ghanaian players saw red for rash challenges making the task of winning a game that much more difficult.
Coach Goran Stevanovic also has himself to blame for his sides performances. Plavi, as he is fondly known, is famed for being a top class tactician yet insisted on constantly changing the formation and selection of his side. It’s not surprising that no one could score when they probably didn’t even know what position they were supposed to be playing in from game to game. Stevanovic admitted after the tournament that ‘maybe I didn’t know my players very well’. Stevanovic’s future as Ghanaian coach is now in doubt as had vowed to resign if the Black Stars failed to reach the final or win the trophy.
Of course there was one positive from the tournament; the Ghanaian defence. It was as solid as a rock and perhaps without it the Black Stars wouldn’t have made it as far in the completion as they did. John Mensah even managed to find himself named in the team of the tournament despite missing a game through suspension.
So overall yes this was a disappointing tournament but perhaps it’s just the proverbial kick up the backside that Ghana needed. In recent years the team had experienced fame through their brave performances in AFCON and the World Cup but what we need to remember is that the current squad has undergone wholesale changes since those games. The Black Stars has a young squad made up of players who feature in Europe’s highest leagues and they just need time to click together as a nation. AFCON comes around again next year so let’s hope the team learn from their experiences this time out and come back fighting stronger than ever.
Player of the tournament – Andre Ayew
The eldest of the Ayew brothers will be one of the only Ghanaian players who comes away from the tournament with his reputation intact. Ayew was the creator of countless opportunities throughout the campaign and was even joint top goal-scorer for The Black Stars on two goals.
Moment of the tournament – Emmanual Badu Agyemang’s strike v Guinea
This was Ghana’s first shot of the game and what a shot it was! Agyemang Badu Coolly collected the ball on the edge of the area before flicking the ball up with his left foot and smashing it into the top corner with his right foot. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=8rU8c6YdLtk