A Pep-Talk To the Black Stars: An Armchair Coach’s Technical Advice

Wed, 2 Jun 2010 Source: Berko, George

Without claiming to know any better than the Coaches and other technical handlers of our National Soccer Team, the Black Stars, I would consider the following contribution as only a reminder to the team for priming their skills to the utmost.

As an avid Soccer enthusiast, all my life, and a keen observer of different styles of play by various most prolific winning teams, I have come to believe that the motion and positional tactics that the players already are familiar with would be most called upon to succeed in their job on the field. Since no single country today can boast of an exclusive claim to skillful players today, what often makes the difference between a win and a loss tend to be little tactical errors of which the opponents take advantage of. So, in addition to the Coach’s strategic game plan, the tactical positional adjustments and quick decision-making of players in offering cohesive linkages become most crucial. I would therefore encourage our Soccer ambassadors to elevate their teamwork even as they demonstrate their profound individual skills.

As far as goal scoring is concerned, if any particular style of playing Soccer could serve as a Model to learn from, one such style is that of Manchester United. That team's hunger for goals reminds me of the good Old Asante Kotoko of Abukari-and-Osei-Kofi era. Abukari Gadamoshie used to say: "Goal is what he was in the game for". Many in the lighter mood would later tease his rendition of that statement in his stilted Twi as: "Goal na m'afefe". And he meant business on the field for all the entire duration of each game he played. He was a constant menace to the opponents. And why not? After all, the no team wins a game by failing to score goals.

From my standpoint, the most cherished common attribute that the two teams share is their relentlessness. Until the final whistle has gone off, the opponent would be making a woeful mistake goofing off or relaxing. Man U and Kotoko of that era would seek to win till the final whistle. It also is clear that almost every player on both teams could easily score goals. So, the opponent focusing only on the designated strikers to keep eye on would soon find out the venom is unleashed from other players.

The Black Stars should have that capability to sustain attacks until the very end of the games. Additionally, the Stars should quickly beef up defense when attacked, with a quick retreat of the wings and the Insides, especially, now, that our Midfield Maestro. Michael Essien, is absent. We are expecting someone to fill in admirably for him. But in case that arduous responsibility of commanding the Midfield to collect and distribute the ball effectively is not reposed in a firmly provable connector, the team would have to be more fluid in helping out one another.

I know it would well depend on the formation the Stars adopt. But such sudden surge of energy to the back in defense and to the front on attack could make all the difference between winning and losing. No gaps should be allowed to persist in the Midfield for a split second. Swift positional interchange with the flow of play and filling in gaps to provide backups and covering would be much needed. That fundamental expectation of player movement is often ignored or sacrificed upon the altar of player fatigue. But its essence is seen in the relatively newer formations some teams have come to develop with broader, much solidified defense, with a sharper tapering forward line. Such tapering formations would easily lend themselves to a defensive strategy. Nevertheless, the starting formation could well 442, 541, 424, 433, or good old 235. But the quick bolstering of defense and return to attacking positions still remain a killer tactic. This dashing fluidity needs top stamina to muster. But with precise quick, selfless passes, the physical burden on the muscles and hearts could be well managed.

I have noticed also that many Players would keep falling back from an opponent that is charging with the ball, without offering an immediate challenge. As much as I believe in strategic retreat, the earlier an opponent is tackled the better, especially when the ball is closing in on the penalty box. A continuous, recursive tackling, offering a challenge after challenge, even when beaten with a dribble each time around, could often frustrate opponent attackers. It also helps to give team mates time to reposition themselves and come to pick up a loose ball that momentarily flies off the attacker in such incessant challenges. Gluing oneself to a particular assigned Position and giving up a good chase to retrieve a lost ball from an opponent often leaves other players unprepared to intervene. The distance away from an assigned zone that one can chase an opponent to take a ball back is not set in stone. But that is where experience and teamwork gets crucial. Chasing hard on the heels of an opponent that has just dislodged a player from a ball and the closing in to tackle by chasers team-mate, often mounts pressure on the opponent to release the ball in a pointless rash or lose the courage to press on. But to leave the opponent unchallenged for long offers him the luxury to plan a threatening assault by passing the ball to a more dangerous spot or finding a space to shoot well.

A glutinous or, preferably, an elastic teamwork is very much needed to frustrate and repel the aggression of the Germans, dodge the bone-cracking tackling of the Aussies, and the swiftness of the Serbians. Our Goal-Keepers would need help, constantly, to guard the corners of the Post during Corner kicks. And the players should always be ready to jump in front to offer a follow up shot at goal or veer out to lob a ball into the “18”. Our defense should not fear to overlap, a special attribute of Chelsea’s Lampard that complemented the efforts of the Midfielders when Essien was out. But such overlapping should be matched with quick return to base zone or a cover by another defender.

Go Black Stars! Go Shine for Ghana and Africa!! Leave no stone unturned. We are all behind you. Choooboi!! Yei!!! Chooboi!! Yei!!! Ghana ooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! May the good Lord protect you from injuries and give you courage to excel!!!

Long Live Ghana!!!!

Source: Berko, George