AFCON 2023 has been another tournament for Ghana’s Black Stars to forget, crashing out of the group stages, again, without registering a win.
Despite the team’s disaster show, there were some individuals who would leave with their heads held high and others who fans probably hope to have seen the last of.
The AJ Auxerre full-back has been somewhat of an enigma in the national team. After playing second fiddle to long-time first-choice, Abdul Baba Rahman, Mensah finally got his shot during the FIFA World Cup playoffs against Nigeria, where he impressed.
However, a string of inconsistent performances subsequently saw him lose his place again. Rahman’s decision to opt out of the AFCON in Côte d’Ivoire presented Mensah another golden chance to make that left-back spot his, and he was simply superb throughout the competition.
After a shaky start against Cape Verde, Mensah pulled out two great performances against Egypt and Mozambique, showing immense tactical discipline and desire which seemed missing from most of his teammates.
Alexander Djiku would probably go down as Ghana’s player of the tournament. His incredible show of leadership and willingness to put his body on the line for the cause, won him great admiration from Ghanaian fans and neutrals alike.
Djiku hardly put a foot wrong all competition, and even if he did – no matter how telling, his over all contribution would have gained him instant pardon.
The 25-year-old only played a combined 108 minutes throughout the competition, but he made every single one count. Quick, direct, and eager to make things happen anytime he picked up the ball, Painstil leaves the competition with his head held high.
After being subjected to midfield combinations that basically sucked any offensive urge in the team dry, fans demanded for Majeed Ashimeru’s inclusion, and he did not disappoint. The Anderlecht midfielder provided that drive for the team, breaking through opposition lines with his top class ball carrying ability.
Unfortunately, his super strike against Cape Verde was ruled out by no fault of his, and he picked up an injury during the final game against Mozambique. However, his performances were loudly positive.
Probably one of the more disappointing performers during the competition was the Crystal Palace forward. The 32 year old, showed an uncharacteristic level of tactical indiscipline during the competition, especially against Cape Verde and Mozambique. That, coupled with some very questionable decisions on the ball, took a lot away from the team, particularly in offensive areas.
On the surface, scoring twice from the spot, and providing an assist in three matches seems good. But those numbers simply papered over the cracks of a highly disappointing showing.
At 34, and having played very little over the past year, the captain’s inclusion in the squad could only have been justified by his experience. However, experience can only take you so far. His introduction from the bench, each time he came on presented a frustrating advantage to the opposition, due to his lack of mobility both on and off the ball.
At this point, it’s not something he can improve on, because one can simply not cheat nature. Even more telling is how he’s been directly involved in the team’s capitulation in the last three tournaments; red card against Comoros, a missed penalty vs Uruguay and conceding a late penalty against Mozambique. It’s definitely time he said goodbye to his national team career, as he’s clearly outlived his importance in the setup. The longer he stays, the more he taints his legacy with the team.
How he was selected as Ghana’s number one after not making a single appearance all season for his club side, Orlando Pirates, remains a mystery. His lack of sharpness was evident throughout the competition. Unsurprisingly, it was his mistake that led to Ghana conceding a late equalizer against Mozambique.
His coaching principles were never a fit for the current pool of players from day one. Hughton’s overly conservative approach, coupled with a squad of very expressive players, was a mismatch from the beginning. Poor in game management and most importantly, poor substitutions, basically saw him present his side to be slaughtered.
Ghana Football Association
After supervising Ghana’s worst ever AFCON campaign in the 2021 edition, the Ghana FA have managed to do it again. This time finishing third, without a win – meaning Ghana have never won an AFCON game since Kurt Okraku took over the reigns at the Football Association.
From avoidable drama due to preparation plans, to poor handling of the team before and during the competition, the FA would take the biggest chunk of the blame. Yes, Hughton has been sacked, but if there is any dignity left in the association, we should see high profile resignations after what has been an unmitigated disaster.
Source: Ghana News