As we near the later-than-usual start of the 2022 World Cup, excitement fills the air for football fans. The buzz and pride in everyone’s national team will be at a high as the storied tournament will provide players and teams with a platform to wow fans around the world. Among some of the countries we’ll be looking at, Ghana is up first, looking to cement itself on the international scene once again after missing the 2018 World Cup. Here’s what to look out for.
Otto Addo’s Controlled Chaos
At the moment, Ghana does look like a reach to comfortably move onto the knockout round as Uruguay, Portugal, and Korea Republic make up Group H, but former Black Star and current coach of the Ghana national team Otto Addo can undoubtedly put up a fight with the squad and system he has in place. Beyond the Black Stars’ quality on paper with Thomas Partey, Mohammed Kudus, and Tariq Lamptey headlining a dynamic selection, Ghana certainly has some interesting tactical developments on the pitch, turning Addo’s side into a formidable opponent.
For one, Ghana is fearlessly direct. In games like their qualification match against Nigeria in March, they immediately start by inviting the Super Eagles to bump them when holding the ball, which works when Partey, an elite holding midfielder, is at the center of this idea. This constant change in pace makes it highly uncomfortable for any team to get into their own game plan, as seen in Nigeria’s increased desperation as the game went on. Foul, fast and direct attack, hold the ball, foul, repeat. A style like this may seem predictable and maybe a little tedious but sometimes knowing it’ll happen isn’t enough.
This isn’t meant to paint Ghana as a boring team either, Addo seems to have clearly implemented this for the start of games to set a precedent or allow the opposing team to exert itself before Ghana organizes an attack. The reset in play can probably be attributed to the avoidance of reactionary football where you play based on what you just defended, but Addo’s side sometimes finds themselves rushing a development in attack, which has led to some of the most exciting and rambunctious attacking football across all qualification matches
Normally, this reactive style could be quite detrimental to a team and has even been associated with inferior squads playing not to lose but the Black Stars have completely spun this around. Rather than reciprocating an attack with a counter, they immediately set up again into their fast build-up. These types of automatisms are mostly seen with composed, dominant sides which Ghana was during most of the 2022 qualifying matches but it isn’t as methodical. They’re somewhat of a tactical anomaly that disguises an intricate and rigorously practiced system with a free-flowing and chaotic execution of that system, making them one of the more interesting teams to watch and an exciting prospect in November. Thank you, Mr. Addo.
As mentioned before, Ghana has the names and personnel to justify such a ballsy approach to the sport, but how exactly does that play into who they want to be on the pitch? Ghana has always been associated with flair players and a solid team all-around but some of the headliners in this World Cup are worthy of building around while displaying a stunning technical ability that has really allowed the Black Stars to play as they have.
Starting with arguably their best player of the past five years, Thomas Partey has been crucial for this controlled, stop-and-go style when healthy. Partey acts as the clean-up crew in the middle of the park as he does with Arsenal. In the aforementioned game versus Nigeria, there are many instances where a loose pass is picked up by the Ghanaian captain and immediately pushed into the attack. The team was set up as a 4-2-3-1 to begin the match but only five minutes in, the Black Stars set up in a 4-3-3 with Partey as the lone pivot while Iddrisu Baba wandered forward to allow Mohammed Kudus complete freedom in attack, which gives Ghana another layer of dynamism moving forward.
Kudus is a relatively fresh talent for Ghana, only recently being integrated but in profile, he’s the perfect attacking hub for a hard-hitting squad. The Nigeria game didn’t provide us with much from Kudus but in their friendly against Brazil, the 22-year-old showed a shocking amount of patience in response to Brazil’s pesky pressing. This resilience to pressing and composure on the ball is an interesting contrast to Ghana’s fast and anxiety-inducing attack but very much needed whenever the match needs a game manager on the pitch that can control play and allow the players around them to get back into a grove. This isn’t to say he’s not a bold player though, many of his touches on the ball against Brazil were him going to an opposing defender and attracting a press to open up a teammate. Was Brazil really trying? Probably not. Is it very promising and justifies Kudus’ role in the team now? Absolutely, and this dynamic deserves attention from us next month.
Beyond those two, Ghana doesn’t have many outstanding stars going into the World Cup, which is mostly a compliment to how well Addo has done at making this group of players a single unit. For fans unaware of African football, many names stand out and those names have a great reputation in their respective leagues, but that pedigree is used to win as a team. With everything in mind heading into November, Ghana isn’t stuck with a tough group, everyone else is stuck with them, and now they can prove themselves as a force in Qatar.