AFCON 2019: 5 observations from Ghana’s 2-2 draw with Benin
The Black Stars began the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with a disappointing 2-2 draw in Tuesday’s game opener against Benin.
Kwesi Appiah’s men failed to pick up three points in a game which also saw defender John Boye sent off for after receiving two yellow cards.
Benin opened the scoring inside the first three minutes, but a goal each from the Ayew brothers ensured Ghana went into the break with a 2-1 lead.
However, the Black Stars could not maintain the lead, with Benin drawing level following Boye’s red card early in the second half.
Pulse Sports takes a look at five observations from the game:
5. Jordan is the deal
Much of the talk before the game centred on Jordan Ayew’s inclusion in the starting line-up. The Swansea forward was picked ahead of Asamoah Gyan and he proved why Kwesi Appiah chose him to lead the line.
The 27-year-old has often been criticised for his lack of maturity but he was the only standout player during Ghana’s 2-2 draw with Benin.
Jordan set up his brother, Andre, to score the Black Stars’ equaliser, and went ahead to score the team’s second goal with a thunderous strike.
On a day when many of the players failed to shine, Jordan stepped and he has proven that he deserves to start the next game.
4. This Benin team will go far
Before the game, Kwesi Appiah spoke at length about how serious the Black Stars were going to take the game against Benin. For a man who had as many as three scouts monitoring Ghana’s opponents, he surely knew what to expect.
Many Ghanaians expected the Black Stars to have had a field day against Benin, but the Squirrels proved why everyone should begin to take them serious.
They came into the game with a clear game plan and, in players like Pote and Steve Mounie, they have the perfect arsenal to hurt any opposition.
Benin are still underdogs in Group F, but with the expansion of the AFCON to 24 teams, finishing strongly in third-place could still see them make the knockout rounds. This is a team that will definitely go far.
3. The Black Stars lacked spirit and fight
Once Benin equalised, the Black Stars immediately downed their tools. This is the exact kind of attitude that has kept Ghana from winning the AFCON for almost four decades.
The moment when the team is required to show a bit of spirit and fight, the players rather collapse psychologically.
On Tuesday, the team looked completely lost and Kwesi Appiah should be very worried about the attitude of his players. Champions are teams with the ability to come back from a goal down, but unfortunately, this Black Stars teams seems not to have it.
John Boye’s red card seemed to have disrupted every plan the Black Stars had in mind and the lack of fight was one of the reasons why the team could not recover.
2. Kwesi Appiah’s tactics still suspect
It is sometimes unfair when Kwesi Appiah is blamed for all of the Black Stars’ woes. However, the 58-year-old didn’t help himself much on Tuesday night.
His starting line-up already generated much debate, and his inability to switch things when the going gets tough was ultimately Ghana’s undoing.
Having gone a man down after the hour mark, Benin added one more attacker to pile the pressure on the Black Stars defence. But rather than retaliate with his own tactics, the Black Stars rather resorted to defending.
Also, with the pressure mounting on Ghana, there was the need to have a more physical presence to hold up play upfront. That was when Asamoah Gyan was probably needed most, but the striker ended the game as an unused substitute.
Decisions like these are what opens Kwesi Appiah up for criticism, having once again gone into a crucial game with a tactics that is suspect.
1. Same old Atsu
Christian Atsu is beginning to become a big problem for the Black Stars. The Newcastle United winger has often been pardoned, but his lack of seriousness is beginning to cost the team.
On Tuesday, he was one of the poorest players on the pitch. He barely took on defenders, attempted very few dribbles and lost the ball more times than any other player.
On the basis of such a performance, Atsu does not deserve to start Ghana’s next game against Guinea-Bissau. He has been touted as potential for far too long, but he’s getting to his 30s and must begin to show more maturity on the pitch.
The Atsu we saw against Benin was the same old inconsistent player and that must change going forward.