Date: 10th February 2008 at 6:10pm
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Not long to go before the final of the African Cup of Nations between Cameroon and Egypt, a game in which many thought at least one of our players would have featured in.

Pompey probably more than any other club have suffered due to the competition taking place in January so I thought I’d take a bit of time out to write a review of how our players have performed.

Muntari – His campaign started off in heroic fashion with a late screamer in Ghana’s 2-1 win over Guinea. I had high hopes for Ghana throughout this tournament but it quickly became apparent that without a top class striker, like the Cote d’Ivoire have in Drogba, they would struggle. Ghana looked heavily reliant on Muntari and in particular Essien, who found himself filling in for other players due to injury and indiscipline. Muntari went on to score again in their final group fixture against Morocco but it was the scare against Nigeria in the Quarter Finals that finally highlighted Ghana’s weaknesses. Despite John Mensah being sent off due to a last player challenge, Ghana scraped on to beat a poor Nigeria side. Their weaknesses were exposed once again against Cameroon, a side they had under the cosh for the majority of the game. Like Bolton yesterday they fell to defeat simply because they couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. This set up what many thought would be this years final, Ghana vs Cote d’Ivoire, in a third place playoff. A match with little significance and one that no team ever wants to take part in. But it started off well for Ghana with another Muntari screamer – a free kick from 25 yards. Ghana went on to win 4-2 in a game Cote d’Ivoire had little pleasure in being in.

Verdict – Overshadowed by Michael Essien’s presence at times, Muntari finished the tournament joint top scorer for Ghana with 3 goals. He is arguably Ghana’s second best player and had Ghana a top striker they would be putting their name on the trophy this evening.

Kanu – The enigma of Portsmouth FC, was injured in the opening game against the Cote d’Ivoire and never featured again as Nigeria went out against Ghana in the quarter finals.

Verdict – Like many, I questioned why Kanu would be picked ahead of goalscorers such as Martins and Yakubu. However it was irrelevant as with those players they still couldn’t win games in the manner they should. A team living in the past, Kanu has never scored in the Africa Cup of Nations and this will surely continue as it looks to be his last tournament for Nigeria. Unless, as the rumours suggest, he becomes the coach of Nigeria.

Utaka – Who? Honestly. Is this boy having the most anonymous season ever? We’ve seen some real potential from him but his form of late has been pretty abysmal. Many thought the ACN break would do him good but he blatantly didn’t wake up because Berti Vogts dropped him in their final game of the tournament, the important 2-1 defeat to Ghana in the Quarter Finals.

Verdict – Time for the real Utaka to stand up and deliver.

Diop – Papa featured in all of Senegal’s games, twice starting and once as substitute, as Senegal failed once again to recapture the form they achieved in the 2002 World Cup.

Verdict – Unfortunately for Papa it looks as though his influence and Senegal’s influence through Africa has waned. They’ll do well to come anywhere near the World Cup in 2010.

Tournament Verdict – Despite many of the best players in the Premier League being African, I’ve been very disappointed by the tournament. The reason? The huge gap in quality between players in teams. Ghana had a team with Michael Essien who cost £24.4m in midfield yet up front they relied on the goals of Junior Agogo who plays for Nottingham Forest in League One.

Technically there have been some fantastic players and moves but for the majority of games the standard has been poor and it questions why teams such as Portsmouth have had to suffer for this second rate tournament? Egypt, the most European-like team to win tonight.

Written by stillthewhizz.

The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.

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20 Replies to “The boys are back in town (ACN Review)”

  • really good read whizz – thanks for putting it forward mate, sorry i couldnt quite get it on an hour sooner enjoyed reading it. im really glad that muntari will be back this week, but i just wish he could have come back having won the tournament with ghana.

  • having watched most of ghanas games, it really showed the MASSIVE diference in quality within the side. muntari would put pass after pass into agogo (pinpoint, every time), who would, without fail, miss controll it. just thank god we have someone better than him to finish our chances. Nigeria suffered the same problems england do normally, and with the greatest number of players playing in england, is anyone surprised at that?

  • Great read Whizz, I agree with you summing up of Ghana all midfield – remember Stephen Appiah was injured as well – and not a lot else. Surely this must be the last time it is played during the PL season.

  • Well the next one is due in 2010. The World Cup is in South Africa for 2010, so why not cancel the ACN and have the next ACN in four years time when we’re playing the European Championships?

  • Come home Sulley, and we will have the best midfield in the league, i can see us winning the cup lads, it is just a pity that Defoe is cup-tied!!

  • really good read whizz, thats an excellent point on the desparity in the quality of the players. As for the ACN they should have be like the other major competitions, every 4 years and then missing the players for a month would be more barable.

  • And I was spot on with Egypt. I said before the tournament that they’d win and I just wish I’d put a bet on because the odds were something like 16-1. Ahhh well you got to speculate to accumulate.

  • Crackin’ article. Let’s hope Sulley is back sharp in mind a swell as health.
    We can’t wait for him & Diarra to strike up a partnership. Kanu & Utaka did well when they came on, which surprised me & no doubt others. Glad to have Diop back too, solid as ever. Heads down for the last 3 months which could end up with Europe & the FA Cup. Let’s make that dream come true.

  • Well if you think about it the third place team leaves the tournament in higher spirits than the second place team. At least Ghana finished off with a win where as Cameroon will be very low on morale.

  • even tho sulley and ghana didnt win the tournament i think the buzz that he would have got from playing infront of such fanatical home support will have really given him a boost – so all being well he will indeed come back in very high spirits…

  • Good work Whizz, Glad to see them all back, we are much stronger with them.

    Utaka, despite his general malaise opened Bolton up on Saturday – he fed Defoe a few times – I wonder if this means Utaka will make the starting 11 after all but as part of the 2 up front rather than mid-field. He has been quoted as saying HR plays him out of position and HR too has referred to him as a striker more often than a winger.

  • Well the diamond was exposed against Bolton so it’ll be interesting to see if Harry gambles with it again.

  • I don’t think we will win many matches using a midfield diamond, it leaves too much ground exposed and all the opposition has to do is put 5 across the centre and we struggle. During the Asia Cup HR wanted to play 3 at the back with a sweeper sitting in front of the centre half in much the same way as Diarra plays. But the defense wasn’t keen. If we can get that to work then we will get the best of both worlds – although I suspect Sol is far too delicate these days to want to expose himself that way –

  • sol exposing himself 🙂 who knows what we’ll try – all i know is what is the point in signing defoe to play him out on the right, that is a waste, but he also cannot play as a lone striker – so whatever system ‘arry deploys it looks as tho is will have to involve 2 strikers?

  • Agreed rug, but when has what we sign a player for got anything to do as to where HR plays him? I thought we had a good enough team for the rest of the season, without the transfers in and out, if the players had been played in their correct positions. OK Diarra has been a find and I think Aubey could be good (but he is only a loan and we are skint) but I am definately undecided about the benefits of Defoe and Baros over Benji. I’ll be positive and hope they gel and I’ll also be positive and think we have the money topay for them if we want them or shall I just be honest and say I think we’ve been conned.

  • It does seem strange that our tried and tested 4-5-1 is now a non starter unless Defoe is glued back on the bench and Baros shows some of the attributes that made Benjani great in that position. I don’t see that we have any choice but to keep to 4 – 4 – 2 with Defoe with either Baros, Kanu or Utaka playing as his foil…

  • I agree with both frattonaussie and ChrisW the going of Benji and the coming of Defoe have limited our playing options.

  • Good article Whizz – I think the form of the ‘top” players was generally dissapointing and overll just goes to show that although African fottball is progressing it’s still a long way behnd Europe and South America

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