Can Black Stars chill with the big boys in Qatar? Brazil gives a reality check

When Thomas Partey’s goal went in on March 29 at the Abuja National Stadium, there was only one task at hand - qualifying for the FIFA World Cup tournament in Qatar.

Can Black Stars chill with the big boys in Qatar? Brazil gives a reality check

The Black Stars had problems. From the coaching drama to the football trauma Ghana as a nation had gone through, peak performance seemed far but that was not a matter of concern.

Although Nigeria cancelled Ghana’s lead, it was the Black Stars who made it to the final 32 teams for the 2022 edition of the World Cup on a 1-1 aggregate scoreline.

Ghana coach Otto Addo at the time, despite being grateful for the opportunity to lead the senior nation said it was a player’s game in the end.

“It’s a player’s game and at the end, it’s you. You guys. You did it,” Otto Addo said in the dressing room after the game against Nigeria.

He continued to attribute part of the success to coaches and players who had not made it for the Nigeria game. His demeanour showed how Ghana needed a collective effort to compete at the basic level among the world’s best teams.

Ghana’s qualification was just half of the story. The odds were set against Andre Ayew and his squad right from the start. On FIFA’s ranking for the 32 teams playing in the World Cup, the Black Stars of Ghana were last. And to put this in a contest, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar will play in the tournament scheduled for November 2022.

In a bid to improve the optics for the biggest tournament in world football, the Black Stars had an active non-existent transfer season than most football clubs had in the main transfer window.

The biggest of the signings was Inaki Williams, a talented forward who finally agreed to play for Ghana despite being eligible to wear the Spanish national team shirt. Tariq Lamptey, Stephan Ambrosius, Patric Pfeiffer, Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer were the other team members who decided to play for the Black Stars before Mohammed Salisu joined later.

Getting the right squad is a good way to prepare for a tournament but knowing how the squad works together as a team is one of the most important factors, especially in preparation for a tournament.

When the Brazil friendly was announced, most Ghanaians felt this was the perfect test for Otto Addo and his team because there will be limited opportunities to assess the team before the opening game against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Qatar.

Coach Otto Addo’s selection for the first half of the game will trigger a host of unanswered questions. Nobody knows what the plan and strategy is for a coach ahead of the game except for him and his team.

However, the first half showed a team that lacked the quality to meet one for the greatest national teams in the world. Leaving Inaki Williams, Mohammed Salisu and Tariq Lamptey on the bench made the team look timid in the first half, a situation that proved correct by the second-half performance.

Brazil was calm in play, their passes were sleek, and showed the experience that great teams usually do. Ghanaian players were on the back foot throughout the first half of the game showing deficits in a host of scenarios on the park.

Set pieces cracked the team into pieces and the coaches on the bench may have marked that as a working point from lessons against Brazil. The ability to hold the ball and keep possession was not existent. Up front, there was little knowledge about who could hit the back of the net for Ghana.

From the get-go, Neymar and his team members were going to be a hard nut to crack for a Black Stars team that is still finding their feet and their ways to finding the perfect formation.

Still, the game from Otto Addo’s boys could have been better. And it was better in the second.

Suddenly, a team that could not get close to the ball could string a few neat passes that would worry most teams around the globe.

The tenacity of Inaki William upfront gave hope for what could have been in the first half. There were no goals, but the game from Ghana had changed to one that will save a lot of backlash for the man who makes the decisions on the bench.

In a couple of months, Ghana will be playing Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea in Group H of the FIFA World Cup tournament.

If the first half of the friendly against Brazil is anything to go by, a draw will be the best option in all of the three games. However, the second half gives hope.

Hope that when the right selections are made, this team can compete. Hope that some players who have just joined the national team are actually worth the hype. Hope that Ghana could secure wins in Group H at Qatar.

But it is tricky as football has always been.

It will be a battle of talents. It will be a battle of tactics. In the end, it will be a battle of who wants it more and who goes for it in Qatar.

Will this Black Stars be good enough in Qatar? Can Ghana chill with the big boys on the pitch? The stage will be set in a couple of months. And hopefully, the answer will be yes. For now, it isn’t.