Otto Addo showed up when it mattered most to lift a struggling Ghana side over Nigeria to secure a ticket for the World Cup, becoming one of the nation’s favourite sons.
For a team that shortly before had finished bottom of an Africa Cup of Nations group including Comoros and Gabon (losing to the former and drawing with the latter) it is easy to understand why the Borussia Dortmund assistant coach has been hailed - fairly - for his exploits.
However, should Ghanaians tread cautiously as they look towards the future?
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Addo was appointed as head coach solely for the Nigeria double-header following the sacking of Milovan Rajevac for a poor Afcon campaign. It was indeed a four-man appointment as former Newcastle United boss Chris Hughton was named as technical advisor while Aston Villa U19 coach George Boateng and Nordsjaelland youth coach Mas-Ud Didi Dramani support as assistant coaches.
That collective was the technical contribution to holding Nigeria to a 0-0 draw in Kumasi and settling for a 1-1 stalemate away in Abuja to see the Black Stars qualify on away goals rule.
National president Nana Akufo-Addo has advised that the technical team be brought back into office until at least the World Cup, while the Ghana Football Association recently stated an announcement in that regard is now only a matter of days away.
Currently under contract with Dortmund, Addo’s new agreement is expected to see him manage the Black Stars concurrently with his club job, as it is the only concession Dortmund, and indeed the coach, are willing to make if he is to lead the Black Stars to Qatar.
This is a dispensation which would not have been tolerated by Ghanaians two months ago, but the World Cup qualification has somewhat painted a picture that all is well with the Black Stars now, and that they should be able to thrive under a part-time manager.
Is there any cause for concern? Probably yes, and here is why…
While the Nigerian win was such a big achievement and the technical team deserves every credit for it, the qualification seems to cover the fact that Ghana failed to beat a poor Nigeria side over two legs, not even at the revered Baba Yara Sports Stadium at home.
Also, that Ghana is still yet to win a game in 2022 despite facing the like of Gabon and Comoros, and the fact that they have been pitted against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Luis Suarez’s Uruguay and Son Heung-Min’s South Korea in Group H of the World Cup underlines the enormity of the work that is to be done before the Qatar adventure.
Again, football fans know too well that winning a rivalry game does not necessarily tell the better team, away from that particular game. Rivalries are no respecter of quality and form, and consequently, it may probably be best to judge the long-term capability of a coach or team away from that game.
Before the double-header, both Ghana and Nigeria fans, particularly after their disappointing Afcon campaigns, accepted that their teams were in poor states.
Fair to say it was a play-off between two poor sides...and if was indeed a ‘play-off’, then surely one of the two teams, no matter how terrible both sides are on the day, is bound to win and qualify for the World Cup (not that either was good enough to win by regular score anyway). Does that qualification make the team quality suddenly?
Not than one game in football, even away from rivalries, is enough to define the quality or future success of any coach anywhere any way.
The collective contribution of the technical team to the win has also been highlighted already, even if agreeably, the head coach deserves the most credit.
There are also concerns about Addo’s lack of experience as the Ghana job remains his only role as head coach of any side.
Admittedly, however, there is a fine line between success and failure, and the crucial Nigeria ‘win’ may be all that the Black Stars need to turn their fortunes around.
The future appears bright for Ghana under Addo, particularly if he gets the full support of his other three main technical members and full technical control of the Black Stars from the GFA. His tactical ability shown in the Nigeria games, and his injection of fresh blood and quality, including some fine dual nationals, look promising too.
However, Ghanaians must first take the right decisions about who is indeed appropriate to lead the Black Stars. If they decide to stick with Addo, then they must tone down the appellations, measure their expectations, and give him enough time to learn the ropes of being head coach of a high-performance national side.
For now, it appears the accolades and celebrations may be coming a bit too early.