Saturday, January 16, 2010

Côte d'Ivoire-Ghana

I cannot hide my subjective preference for Ghana, having lived there for many years, and seeing their progress to become one of the top African footballing nations, whom I have before said are the most likely candidate for an African finalist. However, after watching Côte d'Ivoire-Ghana last night in the African Cup of Nations, I must regrettably back off on this assertion, as Côte d'Ivoire were far superior to Ghana, and winning 3-1 was totally deserved (and it should have been 3-0 as the referee gave an unexistant penalty to Ghana in the last seconds of the match). Even when down to 10 men, Ghana was unable to put pressure on the Ivorian defense organised around an outstanding Kolo Touré. And in attack the Ivorians simply have what the Ghaneans lack: good strikers.
In the 2006 World Cup Ghana were a huge positive surprise (and I was delighted to be in Ghana myself), but many forgot that the Ghana side had one of the lowest shots-to-goal averages of all the teams in the tournament, displaying a horrible inefficiency. After seeing Ghana last night I am afraid that Ghana is still suffering from this, in spite of having an outstanding team otherwise....
I hope I am wrong, but I now believe a little less in Ghana for the world cup in South Africa.


Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that the competition at the African Nations Cup is so tight, but when it comes to the world cup the teams from Africa does not perform. Taking the opening game as an example: lots of good goals and bad defending (in particular goal keeping).

I think the first African team to do really well in the world cup will be the team who are able to produce a high class goal keeper. Brazil have often suffered from the same problem. Thus, I worry more about the goal keeping than the attack in relation to the teams from Africa (Sub-Sahara! Northern African teams more often get overconfident).


El Erik said...

Hi Jim. I don't totally agree. African teams have done relatively well in the short time they have participated in world cups (two quarterfinals and plenty of group winners), and I don't think any of their eliminations can be particularly blamed on any of the goalkeepers, although I generally agree that they haven't been their strongest (except for Cameroon who had excellent goalkeeper in 1982 and in 1990 - Thomas Nkono. Btw, they are strong in goalkeeping with the experienced Kamenei this time, and have some very talented youngsters to replace him!).

I think that the issue of Brazilian goalkeepers is a myth: Brazil has not been known for its goalkeepers (also because it culturally has never been "cool" to be goalkeeper in Brazil), but they had Gilmar in the 1950s and 60s (and he was one of the best in the world at the time, but who would notice the goalkeeper in a team with Pele, Vava, Garrincha, Didi, Mario Zagallo, Amarildo....?).
Today, Brazil is spitting out excellent goalkeepers: Dida (AC Milan); Helton (FC Porto); Heurelho (Tottenham); Julio Cesar (Inter); Rubinho (Palermo); Doni (Roma)... I am sure there are more!

El Erik said...

this issue is worth a post by itself....

Anonymous said...

I did not want to state that Brazil and african teams have never had good goalkeepers. Of course they have, but I think stability at this position is absolutly essential for a football team to do well.

Neither did I state that African teams have not done good at World Cups. What I meant was that we have yet to see a team from Africa in the Final. This in spite of plenty of talented and toppreforming players in top european clubs for at least the last three decades.

I believe that from the first African team to win the world cup you will be able to remember the goal keeper.

El Erik said...

Hi Jim, you surely implied that they have NOT been "able to produce a high class goalkeeper". If you say "stability" now, my argument remains that Brazil has always had stability in that position when they have won the world cup.

That said, I would agree on your point then that you need STABILITY to win a world cup, but I would extend it to a stable defense in general than just the goalkeeper (the role of a goalkeeper in a defense is an entire discussion on its own).
In 1986 Argentina had a not-too-strong goalkeeper (surely their weakest link, Neri Pumpido), but an outstanding and stable defense.

I think a country like Cameroon has had stability in goalkeeping and a strong defense in 1990 (and could plausibly have made it further than the quarterfinal they made). If we take the current African teams that are qualified for the world cup I think Cameroon, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire all have strong and experienced defenses (I am not too familiar with the Nigerian or South African sides); whether they prove strong and stable enough to fairly tame some outstanding South American strikers remains to be seen!
(and here I insinuate where I believe the world cup title will go to :)

This interesting discussion still deserves a post on its own though....

Anonymous said...

Well - African Nations Cup first: I think Egypt will take it again.