This was the first time England faced their former colony Ghana. Ghana showed little signs of exhaustions after playing Congo two days prior to this match. Capello looked to try new things today; leaving out regulars such as Rooney, Terry, Cole, and Lampard.
Ghana played a 4-4-1-1 England played a 4-1-2-3 or a 4-3-3.
England team analysis
The roles of England back 4 resembled that of most teams in Europe. They had 3 players Cahill, Jageilka, and Johnson who usually stayed back whilst they were attacking. Baines was the only member of the back 4 who got forward on regular occasions to provide the width that was being lost because Young continually moved into central positions.
Even though the England’s centerbacks only had to deal with one striker; who had very limited support in the first half, they struggled to contain Gyan. They were pulled into bad positions by his runs and his pace always threatened to get the better of them.
In midfield England played an inverted triangle, it was unique because it was unlike the Gerard and Lampard partnership. Each player in midfield had their own unique role that was vital to the functionality of the system.
Deep in midfield Barry operated as a defensive midfielder. He was usually found in deeper positions than Wilshire or Milner, but he always stayed in contact with the midfield he didn’t sit back with the back line a Mascherano does for Argentina. He helped facilitate England’s play and was solid defensively.
Wingers moving inside have become a common sight in modern football. Today Milner had an interesting role. Instead of starting wide and moving central he played in the center and on occasion would drift wide when downing cut inside. This was very clever from Capello as he preserved width on the right without having to send Johnson forward and leaving the English backline exposed to potential counter attack from Ghana.
Wilshire was the more advanced player in England’s inverted triangle. He played the” Ineista” role. He stayed in midfield and helped England to facilitate the ball, but he would also make adventurous runs toward the heart of the Ghanaian defense before laying it off to another member of his team.
You could argue that Young and Downing were 2 of England’s more dangerous players today. They troubled Ghana with their pace and movement.
Young looked to move inside as soon as he got the ball and whilst in possession he spent a lot of time in central areas. Unlike his counterpart Downing, Young didn’t cause Pantsil many problems. He was forced to take a majority of his shots outside the 18. As the game went on and Carroll dropped into deeper positions Young became more central and at times he looked like a central striker. This changed when Defoe came on for Carroll and Young resumed his regular Inverted winger role, but this time he did a lot more playmaking. This was most likely an attempt from Capello to get him more involved in the match. The one blemish on young’s game will be the fact that he missed gilt edged opportunity; finding a way to hit the cross bar inches away from goal. He did play a key role in the first goal by playing the key pass from a central position to Downing that started the whole move for the first goal.
Physically Carroll is the stereo typical English number 9 big, strong, and a good finisher. Although his aerial ability wasn’t on show today, as not enough crosses were floated in the air for him his finishing ability was. He got one real chance and took it well.
Aside from the goal he was relatively subdued. England struggled to service him with crosses from wide and unlike his adversary Gyan who thrived as a lone striker Carroll didn’t look dangerous in that role. He made a couple of runs to pull the Ghanaian centerbacks out of position but it came to nothing.
Team analysis Ghana
In Kingson Ghana have a eccentric yet solid goalkeeper. Kingson made 5 saves on the day and was generally reliable in his distribution. Just like England, Ghana kept 3 men back at a time while attacking; usually the 3 comprised of Mensah, Vorsah, and Addy. While Pantsil got forward to support the attack.
Centerbacks patrol Carroll well-
Going into the match it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to assume that Mensah and Vorsah would struggle vs. the physical and aerial prowess of Carroll but in the match it was the complete opposite. Apart from the goal Mensah and Vorsah didn’t have too much trouble containing Carroll. They tracked his runs well and denied him space to operate in. Mensah and Vorsah didn’t have to worry about Carroll’s aerial prowess as England didn’t look to float in crosses regularly.
Similar position (FB) Different outcome-
Rarely did Addy stray way from the backline. When Ghana attacked he would push up a little to help Ghana maintain possession in midfield better but didn’t get forward. Defensively Lee Addy struggled to neutralize Downing. He was beaten on regular occasions; he couldn’t control downing when he went outside or inside. He never found away to contain downing in the first half and getting subbing him at half time was a good move from Goran Stevanovic (Ghana’s coach). Opare did much better vs. Downing in the second half. Though that could be contributed to the fact that England attacked less in the Second half.
Pantsil on the other hand had a better game. He got forward well and contributed to the attack by playing incisive passes to Gyan and the occasional cross. Defensively he handled Young well; he was not beaten regularly by Young. Whilst Downing and Milner were able to exploit Addy poor defensive performance and play dangerous crosses or get through on goal Young didn’t have this option. Pantsil generally did a good job defending him. A majority of Young’s shots were from outside the box, indicating that Pantsil positioned himself well and made it hard to get past him.
Old fashion central midfield combo-
Whether it was Badu and Annan or Badu and Boteng in central midfield the roles were still the same. Annan or Boteng would sit back and hold to the midfield while Ghana attacked and Badu would occasionally make runs forward. Any counter attacking threat from England was limited with Boteng/Annan, Addy, Mensah, and Vorsah staying back while Ghana attacked. Badu’s runs only really threaten England on one occasion in the 55th minute; his ineffective runs were most likely due to technical reasons opposed to tactical reasons.
Normally in a 4-2-3-1 there are 2 screens an one advance playmaker, but with a defensively solid Kwadwo Asamoah in the attacking midfield slot, Ghana were able to form a defensive triangle; which prevented England from playing down the middle or hitting incisive passes to Carroll from deep. Kwadwo Asamoah did was more effective defensively. He was yet another quite Ghanaian player going forward. He didn’t make dangerous runs, play incisive passes, or shot from distant on a regular occasion. He wasn’t marked out of the game but was still quite subdued.
Ghana’s wide players don’t test England
Unlike their English counter part’s Muntari and Adiyiah had a difficult time testing Johnson and Baines. Muntari played the “Beckhman role” at wide left midfield but to a far less extent. He took free kicks, on a few occasions he took long shots, and rarely played an incisive pass. Obviously Muntari lacks the pace or the trickery to get past a solid defender like Johnson on a regular occasion but that doesn’t excuse him for having a rather quite game. Wide players aren’t just limited to being trickery wingers. For every Lennon there is a Beckham metaphorically speaking. Apart from taking free kicks he was quite. As one of Ghana’s more technically gifted players he should have showcased more of his abilities. The fact that he played 45 minutes 2 days prior to this match might explain his subdued performance.
Adiyiah’s performance wasn’t caused by a great tactical Fopa he just wasn’t ready . While Muntari had the technical ablity, experience in the position, and experience playing at the top level to do well today Adiyiah lacked all 3. Very few players are fully technically developed at 18-21, and the ones that are usually turn out to be world class (Rooney, Ronaldo, and Benzema just to name a few). Unfortunately for Ghana Adiyiah will need a couple of years to mature before he is able to make a real impact at this level. Also Adiyiah is most comfortable playing as a striker not as a wide midfielder. Lastly Adiyiah doesn’t have the experience at the top level that his English adversaries have.
Only real threat to England’s lead-
Asamoah Gyan was the only real threat to England’s lead. He led the line extremely well and created chances, sometimes out of nothing. Today Gyan operated as Ghana’s target man. His hassling, movement, and shooting from distance caused England problems at the back. For anyone watching the match it wasn’t surprise that he scored the goal. If Ghana were going to equalize, the goal would most likely coming from Gyan.
Game plan analysis
Ghana had a tough time going forward in the first half. Their team was disjointed which made it hard for them to pass. As a result Ghana struggled to construct good attacking moves. Not only did Ghana’s disjointed team make it hard to pass, it also left Gyan isolated and he was force to become a one man attack. This changed in the second half as Ghana attacked more and sent more men up to support Gyan.
Baines was the target of Ghana’s pressure. The majority of Ghana’s moves were conducted on England’s left and Ghana’s right. This was a surprise because Baines isn’t renowned for being a defensively weak player so the question arises why? Why attack down England’s left so often? A possible theory explaining Ghana’s preference of attacking down their right opposed to the middle or left would be that Ghana’s coach feels they are stronger down there. They have the promising Adiyiah who plays for Milan and John Pantsil who has attacking qualities.
Ghana often had all players except for Gyan back in the first half. They started pressing England in their own half but their pressing was poor due to their disjointed team, and England didn’t have trouble stringing together passing sequences in the first half. Ghana ended up defending in the lower portion of their half in the first half due to the fact that they usually started pressing in their own half and when they were pressing it was poor so they usually only won the ball during at final stage of England’s build up play. England were successful with connecting with some balls over the top due to the fact that Ghana tried to play the offside trap but with minimal pressure higher up the field which left England players space in front of the Ghanaian defensive block and space behind the defensive block. When Ghana was defending really deep they did not keeping lines tight together leaving space in between the line. This eventually led to the first goal. Their defensive shape fluxuated too much creating new pockets of space.
England had the better of the attacking play in the first half. They played possession football, and were successful at patiently building attacks. They played primarily down the flanks. This was most likely down to the fact that Wilshire was the only player in central midfield to make runs forward on a regular occasion. Also they had their two wide players, but primarily downing trying to service Carroll. Downing made runs inside and put low crosses into the box going outside. Early on England tried to play Carroll through the middle but they found this approach ineffective as a Ghana had enough players in the right positions to intercept the through ball from midfield.
Leaving this match the lack of interplay between England’s 3 attacking players (Carroll, Young, and Downing) should be the main concern. Apart from the goal there were few occasions where they all combine to create anything substantial. This problem will get solved in time as England find their team and their players get accustomed to each other and learn where each player likes to move off the ball.
Defensively England’s high pressing caused Ghana problems. At times the Ghanaian backline and Kingson didn’t look comfortable on the ball whilst being pressed and they avoided conceding from a few potentially costly mistakes. England defended with 9 men leaving only Carroll up top when they were put under substantial pressure. England lacked a real defensive midfielder. Barry didn’t play close enough to the back 4 to intercept passes and on a few occasions Pantsil was able to play Gyan through on goal..
England goal Break down
The goal basically stemmed from poor pressing on Ghana’s part. Ghana were in a 4(def)-1(dm)-4(4mids) but nobody pressed young and he was allowed to play the key pass that started the move. Although there Ghana had a DM between the lines the space in between the line the gap was too big. The ball was allowed to make its way to downing and the rest is history.
The second half saw a reversal in roles. Ghana became the team with more attacking impetus whilst England was more reserved and defended more.
A possible explanation for England’s poorer performance in the second half might lie in the substitutions. England’s substitution differed greatly from Ghana’s. England looked to change a working system after half time. They introduced players with a different style Defoe for Carroll, Welback for young, and Jarvis for Wilshire. Furthermore they made their substitutions at different times. This might explain England’s drop of at half time.
Jose Mourinho’s former fitness coach at Chelsea, Rui Faria-
“Normally you change three players, four maximum, without losing the structure and balance of the team. A left-back for a left-back, a right-winger for a right-winger. The question is to know your team well and the performance of the player in that moment. And then you select which player is better for that game, according to the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents.
Ghana made like for like substitutions at half time; they gelled well together and got into the flow of the match by the end of the match. The fact England’s substitutions were made at differing times (46th , 59th ,69th, and 81th minute ) and the players that came in were so different meant that they would have more trouble gelling into the team. Whatever the reason England weren’t the same team in the second half, and Ghana took advantage.
In desperation for a goal Ghana moved to a 4-4-2. This didn’t change much in the match as it was late on; this just allowed Ghana to attack with more men which was needed with their search for a goal.
Not every can be explained tactically. Some goals are just pure flukes or brilliant moments. Gyans goal was the latter. England actually defended correctly on this occasion. They pushed Lescott forward to deal with Gyan and prevent him from shooting and had 3 players behind him to cover space.
As the saying goes it is a game of two halves. First half England dominated, but the Ghanaians responded well in the second half to get a draw. Ghana will take more out of this than England. Lessons learnt for Ghana; It seems like Adiyiah and Addy aren’t ready for the international. Lessons learnt for England; they have more depth than they think. They were fine even though they were missing Lampard, Gerrad, Rooney, Carrick, Ferdinand, Terry, and Ashley Cole.