The 3-2 loss Ghana suffered to Portugal comes as a result of Otto Addo’s questionable starting lineup. Then, a controversial penalty upended any resistance from the Ghanaians in the match.

Tactical Tinkering

In the nine previous matches Addo coaches for Ghana, he implements a back five to his starting 11 once. Ghana loses to Japan 4-1 in the semifinal of the Kirin Cup using the tactic. In their last match before the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Black Stars defeat Switzerland 2-0 using a 4-2-3-1 formation. The choice to use a back five against the dynamic and versatile attack of The Navigators is understandable. However, choices in defense and midfield hinders the premise.

The decision to start Baba Rahman over Gideon Mensah at left wingback continues to baffle Ghanaian supporters. Jokingly, Rahman has the moniker of a general in Chelsea’s ‘loan army.’ The club sent him out on loan seven times, including his current spell at Reading.

The decision to play an out of form player from England’s second division over a player performing well in Ligue 1 is confusing. Alidu Seidu’s selection at right wingback over Tariq Lamptey and Denis Odoi is arguably Addo’s worst decision pre-match. Seidu was out of his depth and could’ve received a red card for his head-butt attempt on Joao Felix.

Decisions prove critical in Ghana loss to Portugal

Playing a double pivot in front of a back three gives Ghana a pragmatic setup and forces Mohammed Kudus to be the only player in the middle attempting to create chances. The first half has two missed chances by Cristiano Ronaldo to put his country ahead. A penalty is awarded in the 64th minute when Mohammed Salisu encounters the free agent and minimal contact is made. Following the match, Addo expresses that the referees made an error by awarding the spot kick.

“I think you would have to ask the referee; I have no proof for that, whether he would have decided differently for someone else to play the penalty. But we were playing the ball and there was a contact of players. I don’t know what they were doing, I don’t know whether they were not paying attention, I don’t know whether the VAR was not paying attention. If I look at that moment, it’s just incredible. If you look at the replay, we were playing the ball and it was actually a foul against them, not us.”

Moving Forward

In the 73rd minute, Kudus wins the ball back in Portugal’s 18-yard box and launches a low cross which is met by captain Andre Ayew’s right foot to tie the game. Shortly after this, Addo decides to sub off Kudus and Ayew, his two best attackers. Portugal goes back ahead in the 78th minute when Joao Felix takes advantage of Rahman’s poor positioning during a counterattack and scores. Two minutes later, Rafael Leao scores after Lamptey is pushed up the pitch and doesn’t track back to defend the left winger.

Osman Bukari’s header in the 89th minute makes the match 3-2 and gives Ghana hope. The extended extra time gives the Black Stars 10 minutes to find an equalizer. Bukari almost does it when he steals the ball from goalkeeper Diogo Costa but his slip doesn’t allow him to shoot the ball on goal and Ghana falls in their first match of Group H.

Ghana still has a chance to advance. South Korea and Uruguay endured a scoreless draw in their matchday one encounter. Addo must improve to give the Black Stars a chance.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sven Simon

Guide to World Cup 2022

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