Tag Archives: Ghana

Group Matches (P)review


Round-up Groups A-D

So the 2010 World Cup is well under way, and with a paltry average of 1.56 goals a game after the first round of group games compared to 2.43 at this stage in 2006, I think it’s fair to say that this has not been quite what global audiences hoped or expected. A closer look, however, would suggest that perhaps this lack of goals is not so surprising; the defensively minded 4-2-3-1 formation du jour has certainly made itself known at the competition. Let’s hope for some more goals second time round!

So, a quick round up and summary of what can we expect from the rest of the group matches:

Group A

Ok, well South Africa have already lost 3-0 to a far more attack minded Uruguay outfit than we experienced against France back in the second match of the tournament, quite understandably. Whilst the scoreline is slightly flattering in favour of the South Americans, they certainly deserved the win, and South Africa’s discipline was poor. South Africa didn’t show the energy and creativity they did against Mexico, and talismanic midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala was wasteful. Diego Forlan proved his worth to Uruguay, scoring the first two goals and playing a part in the third and they now look well-placed to go through the group.

Coming up tonight is France v Mexico, a must-win game for both teams. France will surely drop the awful Govou for Florent Malouda, in the form of his career, and perhaps Franck Ribery will pass the ball to a player? It’s anyone’s guess! It would be nice to see ‘Handball-Henry’ for more than 20 minutes but seems unlikely given Raymond Domenech’s tendency to be a stubborn imbecile. Mexico will look to speedy youngster Giovanni dos Santos again to provide the flair for the team, as well as the basis for everything good they create – another example of a player who hasn’t had much club game time in recent years experiencing a resurgence in his fortunes at the World Cup. And perhaps ManU new boy Javi Hernandez will get a decent run?

Prediction: France 2-2 Mexico

Group B

Argentina escaped the brick wall of Nigeria with a less than convincing 1-0 win, but we were still lucky enough to witness some of the gold that makes Lionel Messi the best player in the world. Some strange decisions by mad-man Maradona, but that’s not really a surprise at all, is it? He came out and said that the only three players guaranteed starting positions were Messi, Mascherano, and Gutierrez – a fairly startling claim considering the wealth of talent in the squad. Then we witnessed the latter playing at right back, quite different from his left-wing berth at Newcastle – another instance of players too good to be left out, perhaps.  A tough game tonight against South Korea will likely prove a greater challenge than Nigeria. The Super Eagles looked strong at the back but were undone by Heinze’s rocket-header into the top-corner early on. They didn’t look so good up front, but with attacking players like Obafemi Martins, John Utaka, and Kanu supporting the Yak, they will always pose a threat, especially in the air.  Vincent Enyeama put in a great display between the sticks to keep them in the match, and they’ll fancy their chances of picking up 3 points tonight against Greece.

South Korea showed that they’ve got what it takes with a solid 2-0 win over a poor and frankly negative Greece. South Korea meet Argentina tonight in what will hopefully prove to be the most exciting game the group, and could well decide first place. Park Ji-Sung looked good, and their stylish play is in stark contrast to most teams in the tournament thus far. They will have to hold back a bit against Messi’s men, but should put up a good fight. Dark horse for the quarters?

Greece have a reputation for being a strong and organised defensive side, but here they were undone by some slick passing, much more of which is to come when they face Argentina. Up front they looked lacking in ideas. Points for them in the rest of the group will be hard to come by. They have a chance to sneak a draw tonight against Nigeria, but my guess says they will finish as group B whipping boys.

Predictions: Argentina 2-1 South Korea

Greece 0-1 Nigeria

Maradona quotes this week:

“I am not afraid of anyone or anything – unless they are wearing a mask…”

On Pele: “He should go back to the museum and stay there.”

On Michel Platini: “He’s French and we all know how French people are. If they say ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ that’s something.”

More insightful than I could ever hope to be. Wonderful stuff, let’s hope they keep coming!

Group C

England opened their campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with the USA – a decent result for them, despite what most people seem to think. St. Stevie’s early goal – a real skipper’s goal – was cancelled out by Rob Green’s decision to let Clint Dempsey’s pass trickle over the line. What? Surely that wasn’t an accident? Whatever. England should still win the group, and they’d better hope they do, otherwise they can expect to face a rampant Germany in the second round, who on first showing will tear them a collective new asshole.  Despite what most critics seem to think I still reckon Heskey was rubbish and should make way for Crouch, or alternatively, Gerrard move forward and Barry take over in the centre. Cole should replace the lacklustre Milner on the left.

The US, on the other hand, looked lively and much hungrier than England, but still failed to trouble the England defenders too much. Altidore was probably the pick of the bunch, strolling past the creaking bones of Jamie Carragher. Some increased invention from his team-mates in their next match against Slovenia could see a fair few goals scored, and if they’re lucky they might edge England out at the top of the group.

The Slovenia v Algeria match was one of the poorest matches yet. No one on the field could come to grips with the diabolical Jabulani ball, with passes being floated almost out of the stadium. The highlight (lowlight?) of the match came when Algerian keeper Faouzi Chouachi threw West Brom alumni Robert Koren’s tame strike into the side of the net. Both teams looked defensive, with chances on goal coming at a premium. Nadir Belhadj looked lively for Algeria, getting forward regularly from his left-back role, but failed to inspire a goal. Interesting statistic: Abdelkader Ghezzal picked up two yellows in just 14 minutes and 19 seconds, making him the fastest substitute to pick up two yellow cards in World Cup history. There’s really not much else to be said about this game. Both teams will struggle again on Friday night and one would expect England and USA to push on from Group C.

Predictions: England 2-0 Algeria

USA 1-0 Slovenia

Group D

Aussie Aussie Aussie! Nein!

No cheering from the Aussies after their 4-0 demolition at the hands of a clinical German outfit that could have scored even more goals. Lucas Podolski played a big part just as the webmaster predicted, and his fine finish in the 8th minute started the rout. Mesut Ozil also had a strong showing, playing in the roaming role behind Klose. Ballack’s absence was hardly noticed with Bastian Schweinsteiger effortlessly slotting into a deeper role. That said, Pim Verbeek’s tactics were extremely negative, choosing not to field a recognized striker in a compact but ill-disciplined and ill-prepared 4-2-1-2-1 formation. Lucas Neill and Craig Moore looked out of their depth and far too slow at the back. Tim Cahill clearly forgot to eat the Weetbix he so heartily endorses. The only positive comments can come from the performance of Brett Emerton, Wilkshire to a lesser extent, and Brett Holman who injected some much needed energy at half-time. Verbeek’s questionable tactics have come under much criticism, and the Aussies will need to bounce back with gusto against Ghana on Saturday night if they are to have any chance of going through.

Ghana and Serbia produced the first victory for an African nation at the tournament, and it was quite an entertaining game to boot. Serbia looked surprisingly frail at the back, and human giant Nikola Zigic was wasteful up front. They failed to produce sustained pressure on the Ghanaian goal and suffered for it. Ghana were slightly better, pressuring the Serbian defence whenever they were in possession. Asamoah Gyan netted a penalty to take the lead after Serbia had gone down to 10 men, and this win gives them a good chance of going through to the next round. Serbia will struggle with the speed and efficiency of the German attack, and a loss will probably knock them out of the running for second round qualification. Ghana face Australia who will be desperate for a victory, and perhaps in this case, desperation will prevail over superiority.

Predictions: Australia 1-0 Ghana

Germany 3-1 Serbia

Acknowledgements: Thanks to editor and minor contributor, Fishface Shakur.

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Are England 2010 the real deal?


With the start of their World Cup campaign just a number of hours away it got me thinking what this England Squad is actually capable of.  On paper the English squad always appears to be up there with the very best however much like the South African cricket team (much to the disappointment of the webmaster I might add) they have a ridiculous record of choking on the big stage.  In saying this the English faithful must have breathed a huge sigh of relief knowing that they are no chance of facing off against one Luiz Felipe Scolari. Big Phil was responsible for knocking the Three Lions out at the quarterfinal stage of the last 3 major tournaments they have been involved in (WC ’02 with Brazil as well as Euro ’04 and WC ’06 with Portugal). After the embarrassment of failing to qualify for Euro 2008, England were determined to prove a point during qualification and did so with 8 consecutive wins, making the road to South Africa quite comfortable with 27 out of 30 possible points. Perhaps more importantly than this they managed to regain some respect with 4-1 and 5-1 victories against Croatia, the side who had been responsible for keeping them out  in ’08.

In doing some research I stumbled along an article that suggested that the English squad actually has the highest average age (only slightly, by .1 of a year) of all of the 32 nations competing. However this was before Michael Dawson replaced the injured Rio Ferdinand which has brought down the average age from 28.7 to 28.5 putting them in second position behind Brazil and only slightly ahead of our beloved Socceroos. Despite the fact that at 40, David James probably brings that average up quite a bit, it got me thinking that for a number of the English stars this is just about their last chance for international glory. Whilst most of them will probably still feature at the Euro ’12 championships (provided they qualify) nothing could compare to the lifting that little Gold Trophy and surely by 2014 a lot of them will be on the other side of their best footballing days. For the likes of Stevie G and Frank Lampard who have seen much success at club level, yet only tasted bitter disappointed time and time again for England, South Africa 2010 could be the best chance if not the last they get (you would expect at 34 and 36 respectively, WC ’14 will come a bit too late for both of them).

So realistically are England bringing the real deal to South Africa 2010? Can they finally after 44 years lift the trophy once more? Lets look at the Pro’s and Con’s..

Pro’s:

  1. Capello – brings a wealth of experience to the side having achieved great success in both Italy and Spain, he is also England’s most successful international manager with a 75% win record almost 15% better than any previous manager
  2. No encounter with “Big Phil”
  3. Possibly the easiest route to the quarterfinal – simple group, followed by Serbia, Ghana or hopefully Socceroos in round of 16
  4. Quality squad with good depth and international experience
  5. A group of seriously determined men, ready to prove their worth on the biggest stage – potentially last chance for many and a chance to demand respect after rather disappointing previous results
  6. With skipper Ferdinand falling to the injury curse England still have two massively influential and inspiring leaders in the new captain,  Stevie G and vice captain Franky Lamps – not to mention former skipper JT

Con’s

  1. WAGS – if they’re anything like what we usually can expect from the English WAGS they can only be a distraction – although its no surprise, have you seen what they look like?! Crouchy and Stevie G aren’t doing too bad for themselves.. Pity about Ashley Cole
  2. The expectation and pressure from the media back home simply cannot be underestimated – they literally carry the weight of the entire nation on their shoulders, weighed down by the desperation for them to finally bring home the cup and title as world champs
  3. Pressure and reliance on Rooney – not to mention his temper (remember disastrous end to WC in ’06 with red card for stomping, also more recently in the last friendly – abusing the ref). Rooney is an absolute gun, a complete striker who never gives up and is capable of just about anything but will need to keep his calm and not allow the other teams to wind him up – if England are to lift the trophy he has got to be at his absolute best
  4. Inability to win a penalty shoot-out – G-d help England if it gets to that
  5. Heskey – to be honest I’m not entirely sure why he’s even there but Capello seems to insist he’s the starting man along side Rooney (who am I to argue..) however I cannot see him scoring a goal.. ever (his 7 goals in 58 games would support this). He’s way past it, would much rather see Crouch or Defoe neither of which are too brilliant either, but at least pose a goal scoring threat
  6. Chokers tag will be playing on their minds

In the opinion of the webmaster this is in fact England’s year and for once they will be able to shake off their tag as chokers, allowing them to finally progress past the quarter final. This should see them face off against Brazil in the semi final in what could be one of the games of the tournament. Although what happens from there I feel is too close to call. I for one, hope that South Africa 2010 will be England’s turn to shine and that they finally fulfill the potential that they have so often failed to live up to, they simply have too much class to keep failing. Come July 11 the webmaster would be happy to see Stevie G lifting the trophy.

Come on England!

Webmaster over and out.

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World Cup Preview – Group D – Ghana


Another group D side struggling without their main man in the middle…

THE BASICS
• Nickname: The Black Stars
• Colors: White, Black, Gold
• FIFA Ranking: 32
• How They Got Here: Won their African qualifying group, beating out Benin, Mali and Sudan
• World Cup Pedigree: Only their second Cup, they made it to the knock-out phase in 2006

THE PLOT

African sides just seem to run out of luck on the biggest stage. Two world cups in a row, their best sides (Ghana and Ivory Coast) have faced unenviable groups. The competition is begging for a stand out performance by an African side. The football mad continent supplies some of the world’s best talents to the biggest clubs in Europe and it’s only a matter of time before this is reflected on the international scene. But maybe not this year… Arguably the best side in Africa, Ghana exceeded all expectations in ’06 by progressing out of Group D (ironic) that featured Italy, the Czechs and the USA. A remarkably similar group awaits this time – Italy and Germany are veritable superpowers, the US and Australia have countless similarites (physicality, mediocrity, growing domestic leagues, defensive style) and the Czechs are an Eastern European dark house much like the Serbians. This one major difference, however, and that is the absence of the heart beat of the team, if not nation, Michael Essien. Probably the 4th best side in the group, can they surprise the competition once again?

THE DIRECTOR

Milovan Rajevac

In 2008, Rajevac was plucked from obscurity and thrusted into the intense role. Responsible to millions of Ghanians for whom football is more religion than game, Rajevac was an unusual selection, to say the least. With experience limited to domestic Serbian sides, Rajevac decided to give his resume a more global feel with the African gig. At first, much maligned, but at present respected for his results. The gaffer has disproved his critics time and again, most particularly with a final appearance in the African Nations Cups, despite severe injury problems. Many Africans still wish he’d play a more expansive attacking style, but his sharp tactics have made Ghana a well organised team that is difficult to beat.

LEADING MAN

Michael Essien

Yesterday, we spoke about the influence of Michael Ballack to Germany, but Essien’s absence takes the matter to a whole new level. He’s the key man for the side, wether he’s in the side or without. Rest assured, the commentators will mention his name just as much as his replacement. Essien and Muntari anchoring the midfield are more than just vital for the side. If you’ve ever see them play, then you’ll know what I’m on about. They are simply all over the pitch. Serious attacking threats going forward (just by the way, I’m sick of Chelsea fans screaming shoot whenever he’s in the attacking half) and outstanding possession winners, these two can smother opposition’s midfield and dominate entire matches if not tournaments. Essien IS the archetypal box-to-box midfielder. Without Essien, the side will struggle for fluidity in their play and won’t have the same ease of transition from defence to attack. You always want the best players in the world at the greatest show on earth, and it’s a real shame that Essien won’t feature. Hopes of a lengthy cup run for the side must be seriously tenuous now.

SUPPORTING CAST

Sulley Muntari (midfielder, Inter Milan) has an up and down 2010 and rumours have recently circled about a falling out with Rajevac. His partnership with Essien is truly world class and Muntari will have to be at his best to make up for the missing Chelsea starlet. Muntari is an outstanding battler, who is a proven ball winner and goal poacher. He’s scored 15 times for his country and loves to strike on the important occasions. Stephen Appiah (midfielder, Bologna) is the third part of The Black Stars’ three-headed midfield monster. Another solid player, who gives them bucket loads of leadership. John Mensah (defender, on loan to Sunderland from Lyon) is a top-notch defender, who has shown his worth throughout Sunderland’s indifferent EPL campaign. We spoke about him in a past post, as he has been struggling with injuries of late. If he’s not in the side, then you can write them off completely.  John Pantsil (right back, Fulham) is an attack-minded fullback who once incited a near riot by waving an Israeli flag (he played there for several years) during a goal celebration for country. No Moshe, he’s not Jewish. Asamoah Gyan (forward, Rennes) is the main man going forward. Despite on paper looking a little lacking up front, the Africans never seem to struggle for goals.

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Dominic Adiyiah

Ghana have an exciting future, after taking out the 2009 under 20 world cup. Adiyiah looks to be the pick of that bunch and the AC Milan striker is on the fringes of starting. PTS would love to see him granted enough game time to shw the world his worth. With these kind of footballers, Ghana could become a regular attendee at the World Cup.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

It’s gotta be Essien. What are you doing son?

FORMATION

I wonder if Rajevac will stick to his favoured  4-4-2 despite the injury worries. Ghana are another group D side, who are physical and big and focus on possession/pressure football. Unfortunately for them, the Aussies, Serbians and Germans probably have the edge in that department. Nevertheless, they are typically fit, and will cope with the rigorous schedule.

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

This may seem a little crude, but the movie lacked its biggest name in Ledger, and Ghana will be lacking theirs too.

THE ADVERTISMENT

USELESS TRIVIA

At over 90 percent, Ghana leads the world in the percentage of women aged 50 to 54 in economic activity. Useless!

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

There are two competing story arcs in the Ghana-Germany game on June 23rd. Both involve Kevin-Prince Boateng. First, he was born in Germany to Ghanian immigrants. Secondly, it was his tackle in Saturday’s FA Cup Final that put German captain Michael Ballack on the bench for the whole Cup. And, while both of those are interesting, nothing can top the fact that if Kevin-Prince and his brother, Jerome (who opted to play for Germany) make the World Cup roster and see the field it will be the first time two brothers have competed against each other in a World Cup. (A five-minute Google search verified this.) How’s that for dramatic? ps. it’s a shame that Ballack won’t face off against Essien in what would have been a titanic struggle.

FINAL VERDICT

Anything passed the group would surely be a success for the Black Stars. But, if they get that far, then expect them to cause a few upsets (think England on penalties). It’ll only take one surprise win to have every African storming the stadium in euphoric riot. Even without Essien they are still strong, creative and physical. Without Essien, they’ve gone from being genuine dark horse to a similar level to the Aussies. However, their defensive frailties have subsided (watch them concede a howler first up…) and their experience in qualifying last time will be invaluable. They’re proven giant killers, but will need a result in their opening against a fancied Serbia. Kingston, their keeper isn’t exactly a world beater and goal scoring could be an issue. 2010 looks to have come a little too soon, as they have 10/31 players under the age of 21.

African spirit + good mix of youth and experience + decent midfield and defence – Essien – Essien – Essien = Can’t see them getting passed Germany or Serbia. Their second game against Australia will be their major battle.


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Ghanian injuries lift Socceroo chances


Watching one Mr Mensah come off early for Sunderland in their title race defining match up last weekend got us thinking. Another Ghanian under a growing injury cloud, how many more before the African’s chances fade away? It continued a growing trend of injuries in Australia’s tough group in South Africa. Most notable is Michael Essien who still hasn’t returned from his latest setback and by all reports is doubtful at best to feature in his own continent. It is easy to understate the importance of Essien to Ghana’s hopes of success. Essien is one of word football’s best and he is crucial for Ghana’s attack and defence. Without him, the Aussies are on par, or even better. With the Chelsea man in the team, Culina and Grella probably won’t be quality enough to stop his substantial threat.

The Ghana game will most probably define Australia’s campaign. Coming off a most probable loss against Germany in the opening game, anything other than victory in this matchup will make qualification unlikely. The Serbs waiting in game 3 will be a tougher task than the Ghanians and hopefully the Aussies will only need the draw against the steely defences of Vidic and Ivanovic to progress. Without Essien, Australia can start with an attacking mindset and play their preferred 4-2-3-1 with the two holding midfielders worrying more to push forward than track back. Bresciano may even be favoured over the more defensive Wilshire or Emerton in an attempt for goals and more goals. The Serbs favour a defensive setup, and despite the quality that they possess, will likely struggle for goals and if the Aussies can limit any damages against the Germans they should have the better goal difference to allow them to qualify with only 4 points.

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