Coach Ibrahim Tanko
Coach Ibrahim Tanko

Black Meteors coach Tanko Ibrahim’s job hangs in the balance

The future of Black Meteors head coach, Ibrahim Tanko, hangs in the balance following the team's early exit at the ongoing U-23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Morocco.

A draw against Guinea last Friday ended Ghana's campaign as the third team in Group A, with Morocco and Guinea progressing to the semi-finals.

Tanko took responsibility for the team's failure, acknowledging the lack of quality in their performance and expressing the need for significant improvements to make Ghana successful again in youth competitions. 

"Definitely, we were not the best in the tournament when it comes to quality. We are working hard trying to change, but we have to do more to catch up else it's going to be too late," he admitted in a post-match interview. 

Tanko also highlighted the issue of a lack of mental fortitude among the players, which could be seen as an admission of guilt by the coaching staff. He attributed their inconsistent performance to a lack of concentration and described it as a bitter lesson for the team.

"I think it's a lack of concentration. We started well, then we had a bad day against Morocco. Today, we started well, scored the first goal in the first half and the same lack of concentration cost us in the second half; it's a bitter lesson for us." 

"We disappointed them [Ghanaians] and we disappointed ourselves because we prepared well, thinking we could go far in the tournament."

Ghana started the competition with a 3-2 win over Congo, suffered a crushing 0-5 drubbing to the host team and drew with the Young Syli National of Guinea to end another failed bid to qualify for the next Olympic Games. 

It was the second unsuccessful campaign for Coach Tanko, who previously led the Meteors to a fourth-place finish in their group at the 2019 continental tournament in Egypt as Ghana failed to secure a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics under his guidance.

While technical challenges played a part, other problems, such as uncertainties regarding player availability until the last moments before important matches, further complicated Tanko's job.

The team clearly missed the presence of proven game-winners at the senior level, including Kudus Mohammed, Kamaldeen Sulemana, and Ransford-Yeboah Konigsorffer, as well as difficulties with the late addition of FC Nordsjaelland winger Ernest Appiah Nuamah to the squad.

While fate deprived Tanko of the opportunity to call up some of his top talents, his admission that Ghana did not have the best talents available could have many different interpretations even though he still has responsibility for the squad he assembled.

The lack of game time for some of the star players affected the team's attacking capabilities. Players such as Abdul Fatawu Issahaku and Daniel Afriyie Barnieh, who had limited playing time at their clubs in Europe, struggled to perform at their best.

CFR Cluj's Emmanuel Yeboah emerged as a standout player, scoring three times and providing an assist, but he couldn't carry the entire goalscoring burden and Ghana's fight to remain in the competition was virtually quenched when he was withdrawn with injury during the match against Guinea.

The team's defence and midfield encountered significant difficulties throughout the tournament, conceding eight goals in just 270 minutes of play. Goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim, who was part of Ghana's 2022 World Cup squad, failed to effectively organise the defence, leading to avoidable goals.

The backline unit as a whole, including Terry Yegbe, David Oppong Afranie and Edmund Arko Mensah, struggled to cope with the demands of the fast-paced game.

Tanko experimented with various midfield combinations to address possession retention but was unable to find a solution. The team was dominated in matches against Morocco and Guinea, indicating that Tanko was still searching for the best midfield setup during the tournament.

While it might be an easy decision for the Ghana Football Association to consider sacking Tanko, it won't address the deeper issues surrounding the future of the Black Meteors. 

Tanko's failure to qualify for the Olympic Games in two attempts will raise concerns, but there is a need for a mix of committed and talented players who are willing to represent Ghana at the U-23 level, along with a consistent core group available for qualifiers.

Tanko's disclosure that Nuamah wanted to leave the camp with injury after Ghana were thrashed 1-5 by Morocco, only for the youngster to declare himself fit two hours before the must-win clash against Guinea raises questions about his management of the team behind the scenes.

The Black Meteors' failure to qualify for the Olympic Games prolongs the disappointment for Ghanaian football fans who had high hopes of ending the long wait for a participation in the Olympics. 

Ghana used to regularly qualify for the Olympics, even securing a historic bronze medal in 1992. However, recent years have seen struggles in qualification, with the last appearance occurring in 2004. The objective of ending this wait was not achieved, leaving Ghanaian football fans disheartened once again.

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