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Only a Draw or Win will do for Ghana in Mali

Sun, 10 May 2009 Source: Kwabena Aboagye

By Kwabena Aboagye

The last phase of the world cup qualifying series has reached a critical phase and every football-loving Ghanaian anticipates our beloved red, gold green flag will be hoisted at South Africa 2010. There can be no better consolidation of Ghana's resurgence as an African football super power- after our remarkable maiden show in Germany 2006- than this feat.

Clearly, we have the talents to fulfill our expectation and ambition for the Black Stars. Looking at the exciting prospects like Jonathan Mensah, Vorsah, Inkoom, the Peles and Asamoah Kwadwo, as well as the old guards- such as Essien and Painstil fills me with tremendous optimism about the future of Ghana football.

But the Ghana Football Association has emerged as a major stumbling block to the realization of our ambition to be in South Africa 2010.The FA demonstrated crass incompetence with the appointment of the national trainer, Milovan Rajevac..

Flowing from our impressive outing at Germany 2006, one had expected that an accomplished coach would have been appointed to take the national side to the next level. Rather, the FA settled for a man who is increasingly turning out to be the worst coach in contemporary Ghanaian football!

Apart from a huge question mark hanging over his competence, he cannot even speak English! Of all the thousands of coaches around the world, how and why did the FA select Milo?

Qualifying for SA 2010 is something that should not be toyed with. Mali (our main group opponent) is scheming with everything at its disposal to snatch the ticket from us. Mali is planning to be in SA 10 as part of their 50th independence anniversary, and have vowed to do all it takes to qualify at the expense of Ghana! And the entire Malian nation is solidly united in this cause.

For Ghana, the crucial game against Mali on June 6 will determine our chances in the qualifiers. A win for Mali will be a massive boost for the Malians and irredeemably jeopardize Ghana’s chances. A draw or win for Ghana will set the Black Stars on the road to the 2010 world cup.

Ghana has its mission in Bamako clearly spelt “only a win or draw will be good enough. If Ghana loses in Bamako, we should forget about qualification. It is as simple as that! And less than a month to that crucial encounter, not much has been heard from the Ghana FA regarding preparations. Several African countries have already announced their teams for the crucial June ties, not Ghana! A lot of logistics need to go into the preparations for this game. The FA should send an advance team and spies to evaluate preparations and buildup by the host for this do-or-die game. What are the surprises the Malians are planning for Ghana? What are the elements the host expects to exploit to their advantage? What will playing conditions (the pitch) be like and the status of the stadium and playing pitch? Even hotel facilities, as well as mobilizing Ghanaians living in Mali ahead of the game. We donâ't have to leave anything to chance. Our slim win over Benin the last time should alert us to how difficult the entire campaign will be. The Black Stars have performed woefully in competitive away matches in recent years. And since the Bamako game will decide our participation in SA 2010, we have no choice than to pull all the stops. We have to fly at least 100 drumming and cheering fans to Bamako for the June 6 match, in addition to mobilizing hundreds of Ghanaians living in Mali.

Even more importantly, the squad to represent the Black Stars in Mali should be selected only from the most competent crop of Ghanaian players- players in their best form and who play regularly for their clubs. From my point of view, Paintsil and Nana Asare can effectively man the full back positions, with support from Vorsah, Isa Ahmed or John Mensah in central defence. There should be no room for Eric Addo and co.

Essien,Kingston Laryea, Kwadwo Asamoah and Narry can be deployed in the midfield. Muntaru has not shown sufficient commitment lately, and could start from the bench. Again, there can be no room for Stephen Appiah, our beloved captain. We love and cherish what he has done for mother Ghana. But there is no room for sentiments in this crucial task of getting a good result in Bamako. We will welcome him back to the fold when he resumes playing regularly at the club level.

Prince Tagoe is our best striker for now. Possibly, we can get Amoah or Yeboah to partner him in attack. Asamoah Gyan is injured, I understand and a big doubt for the Mali showdown. I also think we should intensify our search for competent goal scorers for the Black Stars. If it is true Papa Arko is the current highest goal scorer in the Egyptian league, then he deserves a call-up, at least for a friendly. We may consider drafting Ransford Osei to be part of the squad. For now, he is our biggest prospect for the future. It is also imperative that we play a grade A or B friendly before going to Bamako. I heard the FA was talking to the Ugandans for a game in Tamale. I think a 4-5-1 formation in Bamako may not be a bad idea at all. We have to prevent a loss at all cost and given our appalling away record and Mali's prolific strikers; we may have to be defensive. In which case Muntari can start and Tagoe will be the lone man upfront in a 4-5-1 formation.

Admittedly, time constraint makes Milo's sack at this stage not feasible. But what we need to do now is to bring in three or four more coaches to assist him. First on my list is the current coach of Accra Hearts of Oak, Papic. He is a Serbian, speaks English, has done very well with Hearts and could be an important part of the Black Stars technical team. We should also bring in two or three Ghanaian coaches on board- and given specific tasks in the buildup to our qualifying matches, particularly the must-win game in Bamako. Cameroon and Nigeria, who started the series on a shaky note, have since beefed up their technical benches. All hands must be on deck! Milo alone cannot take us anywhere! Ultimately, the winner of our group will be the country that is most hungry to go to South Africa 2010. So far, I am not convinced Ghana has shown enough hunger for the ticket!

Kwabena Aboagye

Abuja, Nigeria

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asoaplomb@yahoo.com

Source: Kwabena Aboagye