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Football | Afcon 2019

Gyan and Appiah © BackPagepics

Why Gyan must start from the bench

In law, each court decision is supposed to be based on an earlier decision, which is called “precedent.” To show that your constitutional rights have been violated, you point to good court decisions in earlier cases and describe how the facts in those cases are similar to the facts in your case.

You should also show how the general principles of constitutional law presented in the earlier decisions apply to your situation. So now, let’s do some Afcon 2013 law. To do that, Gary Al-Smith presents a Gyan case, precedents to back the position and options available.

Case: Asamoah Gyan vs The Menas

Asamoah Gyan is the captain of the Ghana national team. He has 28 goals and is easily his country’s best striker in the past five years. He led the line in the 2006 World Cup, made history by scoring the fastest goal in that competition which turned out to be Ghana’s first ever World Cup goal.

At least, since 2010 till date, no Ghanaian player has carried the team on his shoulders than he has, in terms of crucial goals. But in the past year, he has, yard by yard, haf his pace has reduced.

Ounce and small ounce of flesh has been added to his girth. He is not fat, no, but he’s a bit heavy now. His performances in Ghana’s two friendly matches were more suited to being an impact player. The situation was best illustrated against Tunisia, where he come on to score in the latter stages.

He has not scored in 180 minutes of first round games, and he, ascribing the staunch in flow of goals a result of his "sacrifices", knows people are getting worried. It is time for him to be brought on as a sub.

Precedent 1: Bafana

South Africa have only just gone through into the next round of African Cup of Nations with a draw against Morocco. In their second game with Angola, coach Gordon Igesund dropped the influential Siphiwe "Shabba" Tshabalala, previously something of an untouchable.

The result spoke for itself. They won 2-0, but that's not the point. They played more freely in midfield, not looking for Shabba to place that killer final ball as he has been known to do.

He was dropped because he is not in form as he has been in the team recently purely by reputation.

Neil Tovey, who led Bafana to their first-ever African Cup trophy, said it was time for the national team to change for the better. "Some decision has to be made about Shabba. I think he's let us down quite often, not because he is not a good player," the former Chiefs captain told SuperSport before the team's second game.

"I just think he is having a real tough time and in my own opinion we need to say 'Shabba come sit on the bench, look from outside and you can still come and make an impact'."

Precedent 2: Ivory Coast

Didier Drogba had never been dropped in his international career while he has been available to play a game. Never. Ever.

But against Tunisia, the Chelsea legend was benched for 70 minutes. Cote d'Ivoire coach Sabri Lamouchi insisted he picked the best eleven players in that game - their second game of the Africa Cup of Nations - following questions about why he dropped Le Drog from his starting line-up. They had won 3-0.

Drogba, 34, came on for the younger man that took his place, Lacina Traore, on 70 minutes with the scoreline at 1-0, and contributed his bit as two more goals were scored.

"Why didn't I play Didier Drogba? Because it seemed to me that the eleven players I picked were the best to overcome this good Tunisian side," Lamouchi said after the game.

But the Elephants looked a better side for it. Without everyone playing for Didier, or with him in mind, they explored their varied dangerous options to devastating effect.

Precedent 3: Cape Verde

South Africa were always going through with results the way they were but with 10 minutes to go it was Angola joining them, with nine minutes it was Cape Verde, with eight minutes it was Morocco and in the final minute it was Cape Verde again.

21 year old Djaniny was key to the islanders; effort, having come on in the second half. Normally a starter for the side, he was dropped in the team’s second game with Morocco following an unimpressive game against South Africa, in which he started.

“My team did well and we have made our small nation proud. Numerically we are a small people but we have a big, great heart and my players are united even when decisions do not favour them in my selections,” said the air-traffic-controller-on-sabbatical that is coach Antunes.

He was talking about Djaniny, most likely, for the player has started in almost all the country’s qualifiers. It was a bold decision that saw Toni Varela start ahead of the skilful player, because he needed to vary the style.

The Ghana situation

Every team has a playing style, and every style has an antidote. The problem is to have players to assist the antidote into the body of the opposition.

The tactics for all two of Ghana’s group games thus far have been slightly different, with Kwesi Appiah using different strokes for DR Congo (which did not really work) and Mali (which was just enough for three points).

Against Niger, the gaffer knows the kind of opposition he will face - a very “difficult one" with opponents who are “tactically very disciplined."

"We saw them (Niger) play against Mali and Congo. They play very physical football," Derek Boateng said. "They play very tough."

With that in mind, you need players at the peak of their physical fitness to hold the Menas off. Drogba himself said he was “50 to 60 percent fit” and that is why he understood his relegation to the bench.

Will Gyan admit likewise to what is quite clear?

The Gyan situation

“I am not thinking about scoring now, I thinking about sacrificing for the team,” Gyan told Ghana’s FA website.

That is well and good, because the best strikers have days when they need to take the heat off themselves to create for others to score.

But this is a tournament – a tournament in which Ghana took just three strikers. One of them, Richmond Boakye-Yiadom, has not fully recovered from a groin injury sustained during a training camp in Abu Dhabi. The other, Emmanuel Clottey, is ready to go but has not been given a chance.

The last one is Asamoah Gyan, the January 2013 version. This Gyan can accelerate in short bursts and links up better tahn I've seen him do in years. I know, because apart from what he's shown in South Africa, I was in Abu Dhabi with the team.

I saw Gyan train. And I saw Gyan play in games against Egypt and Tunisia. The Gyan who went to Sunderland for 13 million pounds could run for a whole game. More importantly, he could track back and forth between defence and attack.

This Gyan of the moment does not.

Razak shows the way?

You may have heard of Abdul Razak. You haven’t? Well, he was African Footballer of the Year in 1978, won the African Cup in that year then went on to play with the legendary duo of Franz Beckenbaeur and Carlos Alberto in the USA in ’79 at the New York Cosmos.

"Scoring just one goal per match is not enough. Our strikers are not that potent and that is a worry," he says of Ghana's scoring problem at the moment.

Razak, who scored 25 goals in 70 games for Ghana, knows what he is talking about when he goes on to suggest a solution. "If we can make changes that are effective, that could help us. Indeed a midfielder can come in for a striker and still do well."

Of course, the danger in throwing Clottey in the deep end will be his lack of big tournament exposure. If that is how Kwesi Appiah thinks, then why did he haul the Esperance player to South Africa?

Like another Ghana football legend said on Sunday after he was asked why players should not shy away from pressure in the African Cup, "if you can't handle pressure, stay at home and play with your mother!"

And that’s the point. Put Clottey into the game in place of Gyan, get some goalscoring midfielders like Kwadwo Asamoah and Christian Atsu in advanced positions, with Adomah on the right.

Clottey must share the duties

Clottey must be be given the chance to wet his boots against Niger because, to be fair, Ghana are facing less pressure than they would have, had they lost against Mali. Add that Clottey moves all over the place, hits shots from afar (unlike the Gyan of the moment, who lurks around the penalty area or a few yards from it.)

The reasoning behind this is that the three would counter Niger’s emphasis on speed on the flanks well, and with Agyemang-Badu and Derek Boateng sure to be key in Appiah’s plans, Gyan is really not suitable for Ghana’s last group game, due to his lethargy when it comes to tracking back.

There’s also the fact that his sharpness has been suspect. To be fair to him, though, Al Ain player has had more shots on target than anyone else in team. But then again, that’s his job.

"As a leader, I have done a lot for the country and it’s now time for me to sacrifice for the team. Anytime we are playing, you can see two defenders on me so I have to just sacrifice for the team," says Gyan of his lack of goals thus far.


He is simply not giving the strike force a lot of bite or, more importantly, variety. The media was informed on Friday, the striker did not take part in Friday’s training too.

"Gyan has been rested as a precautionary measure after picking up some knocks," the Black Stars team doctor said.

Best if he watches from the bench and comes on as an impact sub, you'd reckon. It’s worked for others in similar or more precarious situations. It will work for Ghana too.

After all, Ghana’s midfielders have always been the biggest contributors of goals in the team. And if the trends are anything to go by, it will continue for a while to come.


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