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Sports Features Sun, 14 Jun 2015

How Ghana’s Game Against Mali Was Lost

… and why I was right to blame Silas Tetteh for this lost

My article on Coach Silas Tetteh’s tactical shortcomings received mixed reactions and I feel challenged to point to the areas where we could have changed the outcome of the game if the manager is not a suspect tactically as I have always considered him to be.

I like the man Silas Tetteh but I cannot say the same of the Coach Silas Tetteh even if people think his success of 2009 and 2013 vindicates him.

Di Matteo won the Champions League for Chelsea but he is never considered a great tactician so if people think the fact that Silas Tetteh is a tactical genius because he won the under 20 world cup in 2009 then my critics need a little education as far as tactics is concerned.

This is why I have taken the trouble to write this piece, which is not intended to qualify as mastery write-up but “footbally” educative.

In the modern day game of soccer, tactics have proven to be more important than personnel even if some good footballers occasionally defy the frailties of their coach to deliver like in the case of Chelsea in 2012.

Against Mali, the team failed to do some basic things an average tactician could clearly notice and that is what cost us the game right from the blast of the whistle.

I have just decided to point out ten of them:

1. Ghana plays better when the ball is played on the turf; against Mali, the boys kept playing the high ball.

Mali has one of the tallest teams in this years’ tournament. Why play the high ball against a taller opponent when our strength lies in keeping the ball down and playing simple short passes?

When playing such teams, everyone with elementary knowledge of tactics will advise you to keep the ball on the turf. This would have at least given us 50% chance of holding on to possession. Mali won most of the 50/50 ball because we were always going to be second best in air ball situation.

Why we repeated this throughout the game is beyond me

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2. When you give the worse team the space to play, they will outplay you

Against Ghana, Mali played their best ever game at the world stage at any Under 20 match they have played because we gave them all the space in the world to play. It matters less how good or bad a team plays, the team that hurries their opponents to give away possession at strategic areas of the pitch always stand a greater chance of dominating and winning.

Barcelona, Baryern, Juventus, Chelsea won their respective leagues doing this and this has been the secret behind the successes of Barcelona in recent years.

In 21st century soccer, you don’t give your opponents the time to think and make sound judgement with the ball - that can cost you.

Whereas the Malians remained committed and ensured we had no breathing space when with the ball, our boys allowed them to play their game without much opposition

3. You don’t give your opponent’s best player the luxury and space to settle into the game without struggle and dictate play very early into the game- most especially in knockout games

The most difficult thing for a footballer (except the few mentally strong players) is rising to the occasion after starting a game poorly. In knockout matches, the most dangerous thing to do is to give the best player of your opponent the space to start the game on a bright note.

It is obvious the most dangerous player for Mali in this year’s tournament is Dieudonne Gbakle, Unfortunately, the satellite went into the game without a plan for him and the result was that anytime he got the ball, confusion set into our team. Mali on the other hand barely gave Captain Aboagye a breathing space.

You can’t go into a knockout game without a plan for the man who is likely to cause your team the most problems on the pitch.

4. If you can’t out-possess your opponent, out tackle them in key areas

How on earth could we have won the game when Mali out-possessed and out-tackled us? Our players were hurried to give away possession. But when the Malians retain possession, they had the freedom and luxury to do anything with the ball without much opposition . You can’t win a game playing this way.

How can you win a game when you don’t force your opponents into making mistakes?

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5. Play according to the strength of your team

The good thing about football is that, no matter how limited a team is personnel-wis , adopting the right tactics can bring the best out of them and give the team a good chance of winning against any opponent. The game has gone beyond formation to strategy and therefore any coach who knows only 442, 4231,443, 451 will struggle because the effectiveness of every formation is relative to the material available. We went into the tournament playing 4231 on paper but without a strategy (at least I didn’t see one in place).

Can anyone tell me our strategy in this year’s tournament?

6. Substitution should be timely and strategic

Sometimes all a coach needs to do is to use substitution to wake his sleeping players on the pitch up. No footballer loves to be substituted and therefore the best message a coach can send his players on the pitch is “if you don’t play well, you are next”

I have seen coaches substitute in the first half without an injury. Our first substitution came on the 56th when Attobrah came on to replace B. Osei (The earliest I have seen from ST without an injury concern).

56 minute might seem early on the face of it but it was after Mali had scored their second goal so it didn’t even surprise our opponent.

Everyone watching the game knew it was only a matter of time for The Eagles to score more goals and therefore their second didn’t come as a surprise. Why Bobor didn’t see this coming is beyond me.

When a team keeps sleeping after 20 minutes of conceding the first goal in a knockout game, the gaffer must react and radically so. When things are going bad, don’t fear to change.

Timely and strategic substitution forces opponents to adapt and that can swing things in your favour.

7. Changing position on the field can prove as effective as substitution

I don’t know why Clifford Aboagye was made to remain on the left side of attack when it was obvious he wasn’t getting much joy there. 4 2 5 1 is very flexible formation. The 3 attacking midfielders in front of the two holding midfielders should be given the freedom to rotate and interchange positions periodically. It unsettles the opponent.

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Experienced players always do that without waiting for the gaffer. At Under 20, the coach must give out these instructions.

Dieudonne Gbakl, the playmaker of Mali started the game at the number 11 position but scored that sublime goal after picking the ball from the number 7 position. Our positional rigidity didn’t help us.

8. Let your most effective player have more of the ball

Getting your most effective player on the ball is one way of making good use of the ball, bringing the whole team to the party and forcing your opponent to make mistakes. Yaw Yeboah was the player for that responsibility. He was our most effective player in the first half and drew a number of fouls from the Malians. Unfortunately, we didn’t make much use of his pace and trickery.

Having recovered from a groin injury in five days, it was obvious Clifford Aboagye wasn’t going to be our most reliable player on the day. We didn’t make much use of our best player on the day.

9. Except on counter attack, the ball must move from, defence to midfield, midfield to attack- no need to rush things.

On countless occasions, the defenders rushed the ball to the attackers and it accounted for the large number of possession conceded to the Malians. All we needed to do was to patiently build our attack without rushing it. No Ghanaian team rushes the ball because we often lack the physic and athletism to compete for the high balls and balls played into spaces.

We rushed the ball the entire game. The more you give the ball away, the more your opponents have it.

10. You can’t approach a game with one tactic

The hallmark of a good and tactical coach is variation of tactics on the field of play and we were clearly missing that in the game against Mali. We ended the game just the way we started.

In today’s game, teams are set out to frustrate and ensure opponent don’t get into their rhythm. In view of this, a team must always have a plan b and possibly ‘C‘. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a plan ‘A’ to build on.

My critics claim I was too critical of Silas Tetteh in the article “Its official: Silas Tetteh is a bad tactician- they are entitled to their opinions just as I am to mine.

Today, I have given just 10 of the thing he failed to do against Mali from tactical point of view. If he had recognised at least two of them early enough, the result may have been different. These are changes a coach can effect to a team on the field of play right from the touchline.

The Eagles (Les Aigles) Head Coach Diara Fanyeri did exactly what Silas Tetteh didn’t do. We made an average team appear to be world beaters.

We were outplayed, outclassed and outscore.

My question is:- Iis Silas Tetteh a good tactician? If he is not, then he is a poor one- period.

Bad tacticians can win games and even tournament occasionally like in the case of Roberto Di Matteo in 2012 but the one common thing about them is that they are never able to build on their successes.

Our local coaches are not progressing because they don’t learn new things and this account for why our local league is suffering.

Why is Silas Tetteh still coaching The Under 20 if he has improved as a coach since 2009? I like him as a man but his coaching leaves a lot to be desired and reacting to our lost against Mali meant that he was definitely going to be the subject of my article.

I’m not doing the bidding for any local coach because I don’t currently know anyone who can do a better job.

A Silas Tetteh team is predictable and never has a surprise element to their game.

I was right to call him a poor tactician.

Source: Isaac Kyei Andoh