Sunday, June 14, 2009

El Classico Ghana: the preview

Hearts - Kotoko
1500 hrs

Ohene Djan Stadium, Accra
June 14, 2009

Surely, these two football nations - yes, they ARE! - would bring the entire nation to a standstill once again.

Of course there's the three points. But, as all derbies go, there is the small matter of pride. And bragging rights.

For Kotoko, a win will represent a sweet revenge over their bitterest rivals, having been humiliated and defeated by the Phobians in the first round game at their own background.

Similarly, the Phobians will have their morale boosted in a bid to grab a respectable position at the end of the season after initial difficult times.

It is the 47th league encounter between the two.

The Porcupines will again be seeking the right to brag over their age-long rivals with their third successive victory, after their renaissance under coach Herbert Addo in recent times who was once coach of Hearts.

The Phobians on the hand need a win to consolidate their leadership on the League table that would propel them of course towards winning the premiership, as well as confirm their recent dominance over Kotoko.

Nevertheless, they have pride to fight for and to prove that their 2-1 victory in the first round of the League was indeed no fluke. On the benches of the two sides will be two coaches who also have so much to protect and to fight for.

Coach Addo, one of the well known local tacticians in the country, seems to be more confident about victory knowing its importance to the Club and his job as well, whilst Kosta Papic on the bench of Hearts will for sure be at the receiving end should he fail to secure the maximum points, taking into consideration the recent bashing he received from fans for some inconsistent performance, though Hearts remained glued to the top spot.

None of the coaches has however given any indication of their tactical plans for the day, but from hindsight, coach Addo will be relying on the same set of players that have ensured two victories over Eleven Wise and Tema Youth in recent times.

One major worry will be the unavailability of two of his key defenders - Samuel Inkoom and Harrison Afful as indications are that they might be joining the Black Stars on a training tour to Kenya in preparations towards the next World Cup Qualifier in Sudan.

The veteran coach is, however, spoilt for choice in both midfield and attack, as he would have the options of choosing the likes of Stephen Oduro, Daniel Nii Adjei, Jordan Opoku, Francis Coffie and Francis Akwafo with Louis Agyeman, Stephen Manu, Kwadjo Poku and Alex Asamoah as the possible attackers.

Any of the striking pairs, could give the Hearts defence so much to worry about with in-form Asamoah who has also banged in 12 goals to equal Hearts' Ansah on the chart, posing the greatest challenge.

The League leaders however might not be endowed with a lot of quality materials as compared to Kotoko, but have made do with the little in camp coupled with their character of their motto -"Never Say Die" - as their driving force.

This is evident in the fact that Hearts has throughout the season enjoyed a solid defensive set up of captain Hassan Mohammed (pictured with grim face, lol), Karim Alhassan, Osei Bonsu and Eric Nyarko, with backing from safe hands Philemon McCarthy, whilst leading goal scorer in the league, Obed Ansah appears to be enjoying a perfect combination with Francis Bossman, Esme Mends and Kofi Abanga in midfield on any occasion.

They have been indeed consistent and displayed a high level of fighting spirit to keep Hearts on top and one target man that must be watched is Ansah, who though a midfielder has been the leading scorer since and it will be no surprise to see his name on the scoring sheet.

In attack, the striking pair of Samuel Affum and Eric Gawu have not done much when it comes to goal scoring but have remained real tormentors for all opponents and Sunday, as envisaged will be no excerption.

The strikers may miss some begging scoring chances but count on them for consistent threats to opponents and the success of Ansah could be attributed to their aggression and ability to wear down defenders.

A critical assessment of the two sides show no clear signal of who will emerge the winner but should Kotoko sustain their new found form and strength, victory will be on their side.

The Phobians however have equal chances of winning if they exhibit the same character and fighting spirit that has seen them throughout the season to be in the lead.
Prediction: Hearts 2-1 Kotoko
Whoever wins or loses, we want a fair and exciting game!