Black Stars qualification isn’t safe in ‘Otto Addo re-thread’ Chris Hughton’s hands

There was a unanimous call for Black Stars head coach Chris Hughton to surprise all supporters of Ghana’s National Men’s Football Team in a good way by making changes that tackled several malaise affecting the team.

A significant lack of bite in attacking transition phases, poor defensive play and a general lack of identity for a still talented group of players in need of direction was clear to see. All these issues needed addressing aside a switch from a reactive style to a proactive style as Ghana attempts to write the ignominious wrongs of the 2021 AFCON campaign right.

Crashing out of the group stage without a win and losing 2-3 to Comoros in a game the Black Stars needed just a draw to progress to the next round, upstaged the poor 1984 campaign that took place ironically in Cote D’Ivoire.

To the surprise of everyone, Chris Hughton produced a series of changes by picking Ransford Yeboah Konigsdoffer, Baba Iddrisu and Joseph Paintsil ahead of regular starters like Abdul Salis Samed against Cape Verde.

However, this is where the “surprise element” range ended as the Black Stars started out slow and cautious, conceded a ton of chances and eventually a goal in the 17th minute.

A Ghana’s supporter reacts during Ghana v Cape Verde AFCON game (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP via Getty Images)

The high press was uncoordinated and not sustained enough to really bother a Cape Verde group that managed the game so well and paced themselves at the right moments to switch between defensive and offensive orientations.

Cape Verde’s players celebrate after beating Ghana SIA KAMBOU / AFP) (Photo by SIA KAMBOU/AFP via Getty Images)

There was also the issue of the Stars being able to cross the finish line and not crumble under pressure as it has done a ton in recent years including losing to Uruguay in a game Ghana needed to avoid losing to qualify. The Black Stars lost 2-1 to Cape Verde to open its 2023 AFCON campaign but loss aside, many a Black Stars fan was alarmed over the absence of growth from the last major tournament Ghana competed in (2022 FIFA World Cup).


On top of this, there were direct correlations between Hughton and the man who led Ghana in the 2022 World Cup, Otto Addo.

In the opening game in Qatar against Portugal, Otto Addo played a big role in blowing Ghana’s winning chances against Portugal by depriving his side a deep lying playmaker, taking off Mohammed Kudus when Ghana was playing its best attacking football and wrongly timing his substitutions.

Against Portugal, Salis Samed operated as the sole pivot with Thomas Partey operating as an “8” that restricted Ghana from building attacks from deep inside its half since Samed’s passing range is quite limited compared that of Partey.

Otto Addo made changes against the Cristiano Ronaldo led side that switched Ghana’s formation from a 4-3-3 system to a more attacked minded 3-4-3 setup but had an awkward touch with a defensive striker (Jordan Ayew) leading the line.

Konigsdorffer Photo Courtesy: GFA Communications

In Abidjan, Chris Hughton pulled off a similar trick by starting Konigsdorfffer as an attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 system. Prior to the Cape Verde matchup, Konigsdorffer was a fringe member of the Black Stars who never commanded a starting berth bar a pre-AFCON friendly game against Namibia.

Ransford-Yeboah Königsdörffer of Hamburg (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Weeks before the Namibia friendly, the Hamburger SV player played in the second half of Ghana’s 3-1 win over Liberia and picking him as a starter was a bold call by a head coach who is well noted for his conservatism. However, it was a flawed call as Konigsdorffer operates mainly as a winger on the right, occasionally on the left and sparingly as a center forward for Hamburger SV.

Playing the 22 year old in the hole behind the striker Antoine Semenyo was a big ask of an individual who hasn’t played in the position in 18 appearances in all competitions this season.

Ghana’s forward #25 Antoine Semenyo (Photo by SIA KAMBOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Aside providing a creative spark through the central channel, Konigsdorffer had to be defensively disciplined to drop deep and shore up Ghana’s midfield. Konigsdorffer flopped on both ends and might just end up on the bench for the rest of Ghana’s campaign no matter how long or short it is.

Like Otto Addo, Chris Hughton missed the mark with his substitutions which is a big departure from his very good streak of hitting the mark with his personnel choices.

Andre Ayew of Ghana (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Bringing on Andre Dede Ayew and taking off the lively Paintsil and Semenyo (who started to get into his groove in the second half after a frustrating first half) for Dede Ayew and Konigsdorffer was flat out wrong.

Ghana threatened several times to score off activity down the wings and by failing to shift Jordan Ayew into Konigsdorffer’s position and bring on another winger to man the opposite side of Paintsil, Hughton effectively reduced the pressure on Cape Verde and allowed them to regroup.

Ghana’s forward #24 Ernest Nuamah runs with the ball (Photo by SIA KAMBOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Closely tied to the earlier point is the time timing of Hughton’s substitutions which is an area he usually gets right. Introducing the speedy Osman Bukari in the 90th minute was a tad late while the man he replaced, Jordan Ayew, stayed too long on the pitch. Jordan’s brother, Andre Dede, was introduced into the game too early at a time Ghana had an upper hand and was dictating possession and creating chances.

Cape Verde’s forward #9 Benchimol (L) fights for the ball with Ghana’s defender #6 Mohammed Salisu (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Timing is an essential phenomenon that plays a huge part in determining game results and how situations related to games are interpreted, received and perceived. There is a reason Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick that turned out to be the winning goal to settle a Manchester derby, gets more credit than Christian Benteke’s bicycle kick.

Benteke’s strike, though technically better than Rooney’s doesn’t get much love, because the Belgian’s strike didn’t result in a Liverpool win unlike Rooney’s strike.

Senegal Head Coach Aliou Cisse (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Just like 2021, the Black Stars start its campaign with a loss and heaps more pressure on a young, largely inexperienced (AFCON-wise) group to deliver against an Egyptian side that is facing similar challenges after a frustrating draw against minnows Mozambique.

Though the profile of the present Black Stars doesn’t match the profile of the Stars, as a group and from an individual standpoint a decade ago, it is still a talented group that can win the AFCON title.

Black Stars head coach Chris Hughton (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

In the hands of Senegal’s Aliou Cisse, Morocco’s Wahid Regragui, Algeria’s Djamel Belmadi or Egypt’s Rui Vitoria, the trophy winning odds of Ghana greatly increases.

This indicates that barring a near miracle, Ghana won’t qualify from the group stage of the 2023 AFCON since the Black Stars are in the hands of a man who hasn’t distinguished himself from his predecessor.

Source: Yaw Adjei-Mintah

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