Ghana conceded a goal from a Jawad El Yamiq header in an international friendly with the Atlas of Morocco.
The result will be one which serves Charles Akonnor and his team lots of disappointments, as the Black Stars seemed to have the Moroccans on a leash, till an Abalora mistake slit that leash.
Despite the result, the senior national team gave a good account of themselves, with the friendly serving as the first assignment for new assistant coach, Patrick Graveraars.
After only two training sessions with the team, claims can be laid to an early impact by the Dutch, with the control and organization the team displayed – a trait they have lacked in prior games.
Besides an early impact from the Dutch assistant, here are five other things we learned from the friendly.
More organisation without the ball
In all of Akonnor’s opening games in charge of the Black Stars, the team have lacked structure and looked very disorganized.
The Black Stars from defence, through midfield to the attacking phase of the field, have not looked like a unit.
However in the Morocco friendly, the team looked compact and organized especially in defence.
Apart from the few occasions Amrabat, Tarabat and opposing Moroccan midfielders managed to find pockets of space in the Black Stars midfield, Lomotey and Baba Iddrisu who served as holding midfielders, were effective in supporting their defence in the heart of the field.
Samuel Owusu and Joel Fameyeh also provided defensive support to Yiadom and Mensah, limiting the threat of Morocco’s wing-backs.
The result might be a defeat but the team’s defensive structure of 4-4-1-1 proved effective in shutting out the North Africans.
Impotent fire power
For all of the defensive organization and discipline the Black Stars showed, there was much to be desired up the field.
This time round, the issue was not similar to what has plighted CK Akunnor’s Black Stars – inadequacy to move out of defense and through the midfield.
On the night, the Black Stars were successful in their pass attempts, and knew how to weave their way out of defense.
All what was desired was turning the transitions into goal scoring chances. The attacking phase of Ghana’s game was not sharp enough, Jordan Ayew proved highly irrelevant in the game, while Samuel Owusu was ineffective.
Ghana’s three shots on target – bar one, were all from outside the box, with only one of Kudus’ providing trouble for Morocco’s goalkeeper, Bono.
Maybe Dede Ayew could have made the difference, as the Black Stars looked sharp when the captain came on.
Nicholas Opoku and Daniel Amartey impress
In Akonnor’s earlier matches with the Black Stars, the center-back pairing have never looked assured and dominant.
Be it Dziku-Boye, Boye-Opoku or Opoku-Amartey, they have never looked like the future of the Black Stars in that position.
On Tuesday night however, Daniel Amartey and Christopher Opoku may have laid claim as the dream partnership for Akonnor. The two dealt with everything their Moroccan counterparts threw at them – from set-pieces, short passes in tight spaces, aerial threat, balls in-behind and the whole lot.
The tall centre-backs even faired favorably in one-on-one duels with their relatively quicker opponents in Moroccan attackers.
Probably their performance was down to the aforementioned organized team structure, as the Dziku-Amartey partnership proved effective – before that Abalora howler – after Opoku was subbed off before the start of the second half due to injury.
Kudus, the next Black Star
On the night the team performed above average, but only a few individuals succeeded in catching the eye, Mohammed Kudus might have made his case as Ghana’s next biggest thing.
As already indicated, the firepower of the Black Stars was very underwhelming – barrels of guns failed to cause any sort of harm, nonetheless, Kudus carried the attack on his back.
Despite playing as an advanced attacking midfielder on paper, the midfielder often dropped deeper into midfield, probably for tactical reasons – to outnumber the two central midfielders of Morocco with Lomotey, Baba and Kudus.
Even though the Ajax midfielder kept dropping into midfield as an outlet, he was an ever-present option for the team on the attack.
His surging runs deep from midfield, his close control in tight spaces and the ability to change the team’s phase of attack from the right to the left patrolled by Mensah, helped the team gain control and possess the ball.
Of all the Black Stars attackers, Kudus was the sharpest and provided Bono with his toughest test on the night, causing the goalkeeper to make a sprawling dive low to his left to keep out a shot that was net bound.
Thomas Partey may be the biggest name on the team, but after Tuesday night’s performance, the Black Stars team should possibly be built with Kudus at forefront.
Ghana still faces a left-back problem
As highlighted, one big feature of the team on the night was Kudus’ spread of play to Mensah on the left flank.
As witty as the plan seemed, as anytime Mensah received the ball, there was space to work with, the Black Stars failed to mount any threat from that part of the field.
The left-back position has been a debate of historical lineage, with the once promising Baba Rahman also seeming to have stalled in his development.