Following a narrow loss to Portugal in their opening fixture, Ghana needed to bounce back with a good result to give them any chance of reaching the knockout stages. That’s exactly what they ended up with. Yesterday afternoons 3-2 win against South Korea has put Ghana in a great position going into the last game.
With Mohammed Kudus scoring twice and Jordan Ayew supplying two picture perfect deliveries to earn assists, there are a lot of positives to take from what was a very entertaining fixture.
It wasn’t a strong start from the African side however, with South Korea dominating the early portions of the game. Some compact, and at times erratic, defending was enough to prevent Korea from having an out and out chance to score, but they were definitely feeling the pressure.
Tariq Lamptey, making his 4th appearance for the Black Stars, stood out to me in these opening moments of pressure. He was tasked with the job of containing Son Heung-Min and managed to prevent him a couple of times, although occasionally through fouls. He was also quick to shut down Korean players, giving them less time on the ball and putting in some good blocks, an aspect missing from Ghana’s previous game.Embed from Getty Images
Korea had already racked up seven corners before the 20th minute. Poor deliveries let them down though, with quite a few of them only going as far as the first man.
That was the key difference between the two sides in the first half, as the first cross into the box Ghana delivered, they scored from. Jordan Ayew sent a dangerous ball into the box from a freekick which Korea struggled to deal with. Centre half Mohammed Salisu was on hand to poke home on the spin to put his side ahead at the first time of asking. Despite not having a sniff at goal before, Ghana gave themselves something they were able to build from.
Some controversy does surround the goal however. Before Salisu took his chance, the ball had struck André Ayew on the arm. VAR had a look but deemed the goal legal as it had hit him from such close range. This is where inconsistency in officiating comes into play, because we have seen handball decisions like that be given countless times, and often for less. Although I personally did not think it deserved to be disallowed, there needs to be some consistency urgently, because going off previous calls that goal shouldn’t have stood.Embed from Getty Images
Having said that Korea didn’t help themselves, sitting their defensive line very deep for the freekick. Ghana did well to take advantage of this and get as many bodies making searching runs into dangerous positions, winning them the lead.
Following this goal Ghana looked like a completely different team. They were keeping the ball nicely, making good attacking movements and at a fast pace. A vast improvement on from Portugal. They also lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation and looked better for it. Five at the back suited playing a bigger team like Portugal, but also hindered them at times with their negative and slow mindset. For much of yesterday Ghana looked vastly more positive and like a team out to score goals.
Score goals they did as after a fine period of passing, in the 34th minute they were 2-0 up. Another fantastic cross from Jordan Ayew allowed Kudus to guide the ball into the far bottom-right corner with a header. An excellent goal from a Ghana perspective. Jordan Ayew showed great vision to pick out Kudus and the pass matched that. Kudus also played in a more attacking position this time, out on the right wing. This played to his strengths much more and he really showed off his attacking qualities.
With credit to South Korea, they did manage to get themselves back into the game in the second half. After some awful attempts at crosses in their first two fixtures they finally managed to make one work. Cho Gue-Sung got his head on the end of a cross to pull one back for his side. Koreas first shot on target in this World Cup.
Not even three minutes later and they were level. Another cross from the left and another thumping Cho Gue-Sung header. A goal that could have been avoided in my opinion. Son plays a pass to the by-line and no one looks to chase the ball. Lamptey has been drawn out by Son so can’t get there in time, but no one shuffles across to press and shut down the cross. Instead, they are given acres of space to put the ball in. Although pressing had been much better in this game from Ghana, this passage was much more reminiscent of their last outing.Embed from Getty Images
The first Korea goal seemed to damage Ghana’s confidence. They dropped off massively and lost their lead because of it. Just like the Portugal game they concede two goals within a few minutes of each other, something they can’t afford to make a regular occurrence.
Something else Ghana need to watch is their temperament on occasions. We saw a couple of times against Portugal players shove or kick out when provoked and Armartey did the same in this game, swinging his arm back to make contact with a player following a strong challenge. It was only a yellow for Armartey but they could easily see a red if this continues in future matches.
The second goal would act as a wake-up call and seven minutes later Ghana would respond with a strike of their own. Another ball across goal from the left side (every Ghanaian goal so far has been scored like this) was initially missed by Iñaki Willams but then slotted past the keeper first time by Kudus to grab his second. A very passionate celebration from him, showing how much this means to him but also his team.
5 goals from 6 shots on target for Ghana so far, showing they are a very clinical team when they do get their opportunities.
It was a nervy end to the game for Ghana, with Otto Addo switching to five at the back for the last ten minutes. A barrage of chances fell to Korea in the final moments, but some acrobatic stops from Ati-Zigi and a clearance away from the goal-line kept Ghana in front and earned them their first points in the group.
With Portugal winning their game 2-0, Ghana now only require a draw in their final game to land them a place in the next round. They will have to do this against Uruguay, the side that controversially knocked them out of the 2010 quarter finals.
12 years in the making.
A massive game awaits us.