Sports Features of 2014-01-28

Maxwell Konadu – A tactical mastermind

Whatever else happens during the ongoing Championship of African Nations (CHAN) tournament in South Africa, Local Black Stars head coach Maxwell Konadu is gradually but surely enhancing his reputation as a top tactician.

He has guided the team through difficult matches with the Congo Republic, Libya and Ethiopia in the Group phase, as well as a tough quarterfinal against former champions DR Congo and with a tasty semifinal against Nigeria to come, the ex-Asante Kotoko head coach has indeed come a long way.

The road has not always been smooth, but the former target man has made the most of his opportunities. After cutting his teeth in coaching at Red Bull Soccer Academy, he joined the coaching staff of Wa All Stars and soon, it was clear that the Wa-based side was playing some magnificent football.

After a 12-month chase, Asante Kotoko signed him on as the club’s new head coach and Konadu responded by taking the Porcupine Warriors to a memorable league title.

Before then, Konadu had acted as assistant to David Duncan with the Black Meteors. After Ghana was knocked out by Sudan in Olympics games qualifying, Konadu kept his place with Kwesi Appiah appointed the new head coach of the Black Meteors.

Ghana eventually qualified for the All Africa games and the Black Meteors won gold in Mozambique.

With such a meteoric rise, it wasn’t too surprising that when Kwesi Appiah was appointed the head coach for the Black Stars, he chose Konadu as his assistant and the double act has resulted in a third straight World Cup appearance for Ghana.

I remember coming into close contact with Maxwell Konadu during the 2010 World Cup. He was one of my panelists on Metro TV at the time and even then, his ability to read games was evident.

I remember watching Germany’s game with Australia with him and not long after the game started, Konadu turned to me and said, “Chris, the way things are going, Australia would get a red card.” True enough, Tim Cahill was sent off in the second half as Germany ran out 4-0 winners.

The next time Konadu was on the panel was during the Italy vs Paraguay game. This time, in answer to a question on the panel, Konadu answered, “Chris, the Italians have to be careful because the Paraguayans are experts with set pieces.” Eventually Antolin Alcaraz headed home a free kick to put Paraguay 1-0 ahead, with the game finishing 1-1.

That was of course before his national appointment and his exploits with Asante Kotoko. Many also forget that after Orlando Wellington resigned as head coach of the Black Satellites, it was Konadu who stepped in as a caretaker coach and guided the team to qualification for last year’s African Youth Soccer Championships in Algeria.

He also took over the local Black Stars and even though the limitations of the team were all too evident during the West African Football Union (WAFU) tournament, Konadu did what he had to do with the materials available to him and against all odds, Ghana won the tournament by beating Senegal 3-1 in the final.

I have been one of the Local Black Stars critics throughout this tournament, with specific reference to the players because in my view, they have not been tactically disciplined. It is clear that Konadu is giving clear instructions to his players but most of the time, such tactical instructions have been ignored.

Indeed in my last article I stated that the players were letting Konadu down. Yet, in the face of all these difficulties, Konadu has managed to steer the team into the semifinals.

Interestingly enough, Ghana is yet to concede a goal from open play and indeed, even though only four goals have been scored, with two coming from Asante Kotoko defender Kwabena Adusei, the Local Black Stars head into the game against Nigeria with one of the best defences in the competition.

I honestly thought that the players played their best game against a dangerous DR Congo side and perhaps the end justifies the means.

Konadu has also brought out the best in Hearts of Oak defender Nuru Sulley, who had looked efficient in all the matches played so far and Joshua Tijani has done all that is asked of him so far. The other players have given their all and the litmus test for Konadu would be Wednesday’s game. Interestingly enough, it would be Ghana’s first match against West African opposition and I am pretty certain that Konadu would not mind playing ugly football to edge past the Nigerians, who have been the top scoring team in the tournament so far but also has a defence leaking like a sieve. Whatever happens, Konadu is clearly on the up and with a role assisting Kwesi Appiah at the 2014 World Cup to come, this is as good a chance as any to remind everyone that he is indeed a tactical mastermind in the making.

Source: Christopher Opoku/footy-ghana.com
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