AFCON 2021: Should Ghanaians be worried or preach calm?

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Ghana’s hopes of having a bright start to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations were shattered on Monday, January 10, after losing to Morocco in the Group C opener.

The Black Stars were beaten right at the end with Sofiane Boufal striking home the only goal of the game in the 83rd minute.

For many, the confidence in the squad dwindles as the days go by. But is it too early to judge the Black Stars or is there really any cause for alarm?

According to head coach, Milovan Rajevac in his post-match press conference said, “We [Ghana] missed many chances and Morocco were a bit luckier in the end.”

His comments may come as a shock to many who watched the team play against the Atlas Lions as the Black Stars failed to create chances and looked less threatening as the minutes went by.

Morocco managed 12 shots in regular minutes of play, 1 goal, and for those interested in expected goals (xG), the Atlas Lions accumulated an xG of 1.33.

On the other hand, Ghana had just five shots which is currently the least in the tournament and accumulated an xG of 0.43.

While Morocco attempted 19 final third passes with eight of them being successful, Ghana had 29 with just eight being completed.

In total, our passing was not the best and we were only able to make 64% accurate passes. This also records as the second-lowest in the competition, just 5% more than Malawi (59%)

Kamaldeen Sulemana struggled on the flanks with Achraf Hakimi breathing down his neck anytime he tries to create a space, make a run or take a shot.

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The Ligue 1 star lost possession 14 times in the game, which was the second-highest in the Black Stars team, three less than Andy Yiadom’s 17 and most came from the opposition half. Ghana completed just 3 out of their 13 crosses put out.

This, in a way, explains why our chance creation was pretty low as the side were unable to string their final third balls together.

Ghana had no big chance creation in the game as they managed just two shots in the opposition box in 90 minutes of play while Morocco had eight.

Jordan Ayew, Ghana’s starting striker, had just 15 touches in the game with no shot in the time 86 minutes he lasted on the pitch.

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There were so many issues with the side, but I do not think Milovan Rajevac was bent on a win against a side that currently sit 28th on the World FIFA rankings and second on the African Continent.

Speaking on why he made his substitutions late, the gaffer said, “Everything was really tight, and I felt the team was functioning well so there was no need to make unnecessary substitutions up till the moment we conceded, we were in full control of the match.”

Clearly from his comments, the Serbian trainer obviously went into the game with a clear intention of getting a point from the match and avoid losing to Vahid Halilhodzic’s side.

Well, it’s still early days in the competition. I believe Ghanaians need to be calm and not overreact to this loss.

Morocco still remains a top side on the continent and are even considered favourites for this tournament. Ghana on the other hand are the underdogs and therefore expectations should be managed.

Where I believe Ghana has an advantage in qualifying for the next round is how our group games are structured.

Ghana plays Gabon who are without their star-man, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A win against Gabon will be the needed response Ghana needs going into the last fixture against Comoros.

Gabon on the other hand won against Comoros, a defeat against Ghana will put them in a tight spot as they play Morocco in their last fixture.

With chances taken in the next two games, Ghana could qualify for the next round of the competition. But until those chances are taken, I believe we should still rally behind our national team and support them till the end.

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