Five takeaways from Ghana’s 1-0 win over Uganda

Ghana Afcon 2017

Ghana began their campaign at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday with a 1-0 win over Uganda. The win was courtesy a first-half penalty by Andre Dede Ayew.

TV3‘s Yaw Ofosu Larbi takes an analysing look at what transpired at the Stade de Port-Gentil.

Uganda’s strength lies in teamwork

Crowned Africa’s National team of the year prior to the tournament, there was no doubt that the match against the Black Stars was going to be a difficult one. All through the game, there was just one running theme: Teamwork is key! From organisation to team spirit, the Cranes ticked all the boxes of a team brimming with confidence and ready to fight till the end. In the first half, it all didn’t go well. The Black Stars dominated as they should, running free from defenders Isinde and Wasswa but still couldn’t find a way past goalkeeper Denis Onyango who was just voted best African based player. The second half though, had a different story. The Ugandans came on as an improved side hurting the Black Stars with their physicality. Farouk Miya the brightest of spots for the Cranes and the 19-year-old Shaban were just too tough to handle in the area. But in all, it was a disappointing return for Uganda, who played at their first Nations Cup since 1978 when they lost in the final to then-hosts Ghana. The Cranes created few opportunities of note and struggled against the Black Stars, who were happy to defend their lead but there is no doubt that the Cranes can come back with a solid performance against Egypt to aid their qualification hopes. It can only get better for Micho and his side.

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Atsu, still the main man

It has become an increasingly similar story for Ghana at Afcon. When Christian Atsu has a good game, we win. It told in 2013 and in 2015 when he won the Most Valuable Player award albeit losing to Ivory Coast in the final. Atsu was menacing on the right hand side of attack for the Black Stars. The man with 49 caps and 10 goals has been Ghana’s main man at Afcon in recent editions. The 25-year-old’s club career has never taken off as he would have expected- signing for Chelsea at an early age, being shoved around clubs on loan spells and has just found solace at Rafa Benitez’ Newcastle- but his performances for his country have never changed. Atsu for club is almost like Clark Kent while for Ghana is the superman. If there was an audition of footballers, Atsu would only reel tapes from his international games to get a slot. His performance against Uganda on Tuesday was nothing short of spectacular- earning him the man of the match award. His shot that was saved by Onyango was one of best chances and I spared a thought for defender Isaac Isinde who he toyed around all through the game. Every team needs good ethos, understanding and a better organization. The Black Stars have all of that, but will still need Atsu at his utmost best to earn results.

PARTEY could become heir to Essien’s throne

For the skeptics, Grant had gotten it wrong when he decided to include Partey in his team. The Athletico Madrid midfielder played a big role in maintaining Ghana’s 1-0 lead. The 24 year old who has already made five caps for the Black Stars has been touted as one of the best midfielders of his generation and probably the long term heir to Essien’s throne in midfield. His simple passes, bursting runs and persistence to get the ball when it is with an opponent typifies his performance yesterday and how easily he is seeping into the Essien role for the team- although in defensive midfield. Most of his passes yesterday were suspect but in his defense, it is his first major tournament and thus there could be a few jittery moments. But he was very solid. Solid enough to keep Afriyie Acquah and Agyemang Badu out of the team. Partey is not there yet but the signs show he could be an integral figure for the Stars. 

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Black Stars goal drought

After the game last night, I saw a tweet that said the Black Stars love to score just one goal and it made me think. In the last five matches before the game against Uganda, Ghana had score only TWO GOALS against South Africa and Rwanda. It was not different yesterday. Attack look sharp but they just couldn’t get the finish to provide extra celebration. That brings us back to the question of why Grant axed Majeed Waris and Rapheal Dwamena out of his side when clearly they had scored so many goals for their clubs this season. Waris answered his snub with a brace last weekend for Lorient to remind Mr. Grant of what he could be missing at the tournament. I’m banishing any thoughts that the strikers we have are not capable. I would like to think and maybe I could be accused of naivety that the ones we have now are only on rough patch. They might need something to spur them on. The goals will come yes, but it should be soon enough because that game against Mali will be a proper litmus test.

Change of defensive partnership, no problem

John Boye and Daniel Amartey were superb in defense for the Black Stars. The centre back pairing of the team worked to perfection and according to plan. Jonathan Mensah’s absence was not felt so much. John Boye physical presence and aerial ability makes up for what he lacks in pace and reading the game. It was therefore a masterstroke for Grant to have paired him with Amartey whose experience in the English Premier came to bare again. Always keen to initiate an attack when he gets the ball. Ochaya’s crosses were almost always very deadly but Boye did enough to ward off Miya and Shaban who were looking to pounce and cause mayhem. The confidence amongst the two and the fact that Jonathan Mensah is waiting in the reins to displace anyone who doesn’t perform will ginger them to give out 110%.

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By Yaw Ofosu Larbi||TV3|Ghana