Black Stars fail Brazil test but with valuable lessons for Otto Addo

Ghana paid the price for a poor first half after being outplayed and battered by a superior Brazil team – a reality check that must now force Otto Addo into making some tough decisions…

Black Stars fail Brazil test but with valuable lessons for Otto Addo

It was a night of blame, censure and regret. The Black Stars failed to shine under the bright lights of the Stade Oceane on a day when they faced their biggest test yet ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

For a side that will play against Uruguay, Portugal and South Korea in Qatar, this was the ultimate litmus test. But Ghana capitulated, with a disastrous first-half showing culminating in a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of a well-motivated Brazil.

Not many Ghanaians expected the Black Stars to beat Brazil. At best, people were just being hopeful; optimistic of a show to be proud of. But they also expected some fight and character, none of which the team provided in the first half.

The Selecao literally had a stroll in the first 45 minutes, bossing play without any challenge and passing their way into Ghana’s territory with so much ease. Such was the comfortability of Tite’s side that, they created a flurry of clear-cut chances – Lucas Paqueta, Richarlison and Raphinha all squandered good opportunities – within the opening quarter of an hour.

And it took just eight minutes for the South Americans to open the scoring, having consistently probed Ghana’s defence right from the blast of the referee’s whistle. It was an onslaught from the first minute and the Black Stars just couldn’t handle the intensity of their opponents.

All three of Brazil’s goals were well-worked, but Otto Addo and his technical team must’ve felt disappointed watching each ball go in. The players will too. Despite Ghana’s horrible start to the game, Marquinhos’ opener was avoidable as the PSG captain was left unmarked to head home Raphinha’s cross.

After 28 minutes, Richarlison doubled Brazil’s lead with a first-time finish after the Black Stars allowed Neymar all the time and space to re-adjust himself to receive a ball that had been played on his blind side and pick out the Tottenham forward.

From there, Ghana were at sixes and sevens as the Selecao went on to make it 3-0 following another free header from Richarlison. The Black Stars played much better in the second half following the introduction of Inaki Williams, Mohammed Salisu and Tariq Lamptey, but it was a little too late as Brazil run out as comfortable winners.

As bad as the result looks, this is a defeat that is accompanied by valuable lessons for Otto Addo and Ghana’s entire technical team. The Black Stars currently boast arguably their strongest squad in terms of talent in the last decade following the addition of some Europe-born players to the national team roster.

However, there appears to be an urge to show loyalty to the players who helped the team to qualify for the World Cup. Addo’s starting line-up against Brazil certainly gives that impression and it badly backfired as shown by the variant performance of the team in the first and second halves.

Discussing the intentions of the newly-minted internationals who only joined ahead of the World Cup is a grey area, but they are already here and that means if they are better than the options available, they must play ahead of them.

Football has always been a cutthroat sport and has no room for sentiments. Even Brazil, who are currently the no.1 ranked team on the FIFA world ranking fielded their strongest side. Addo should’ve done the same.

Partey’s late, injury-enforced absence may have altered Addo’s game plan and tactics but playing Baba Iddrisu as a single-pivot left the Real Mallorca man badly exposed, leading to one of his poorest performances in a Ghana shirt.

Denis Odoi has been decent since his debut against Nigeria in the World Cup playoffs in March, but it was a complete mismatch to have the 34-year-old defender battling the pace and trickery of Neymar, Vinicius Jr and co., especially when the more athletic Lamptey was available.

Again, throwing a teenage Felix Afena-Gyan, who has been struggling at club level recently, into a game where the opponent's defence was being marshalled by the experienced duo of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos was never going to yield any positive result, was it? And that mismatch was corrected when Williams came on in the second half and immediately ended the Brazil defence’s holiday and forced them into working harder.

Salisu’s composure and assuredness was also telling, while Lamptey made a series of forward incursions and even had one shot – albeit wayward – in the 18 minutes he played.

There is no substitute for quality and although Addo has a difficult job on his hands, he must make the tough decisions. The fact that Ghana is the lowest ranked team going into the World Cup doesn’t mean the fans will accept mediocre performances, especially with such a talented group at his disposal.

''I will start with myself because maybe the system was wrong. I have to look at it again and question myself first,” the Ghana coach admitted at a post-game press conference.

"My selection was not a gamble. It was a decision of complex things. Line-up was good but we had to work harder to close the spaces. I think I made mistakes, I learnt a lot more about my players, and picking the next 11 will depend on the performance in the next game.”

Making mistakes is a part of the game and, in Addo’s case, he’s even lucky that this happened in a friendly game that has no real consequence. In Qatar, every game will be a must-win and it remains to be seen what the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder will change before his side faces Portugal in their opening World Cup group game on November 24.

Between now and then, though, the Black Stars have two games more to put things right – the first against Nicaragua on Tuesday and the other against Switzerland in eight weeks’ time.

Addo’s post-game comments suggest he has picked up valuable lessons from the thrashing Ghana suffered against Brazil. His overall record of just a single win in seven matches doesn’t do him much good either. And now the microscope is on him to turn things around… and very quickly.

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