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Ghana set for Brazil 2014: A tactical review of the big win over Egypt

Ghana’s 6-1 victory over the Pharaohs all but booked their spot at . So how were they able to achieve this surprising result? 

Starting Lineups:

Bradley’s decision to go 4-3-3 (or 4-3-3-0 essentially) was the major surprise in terms of the structure & shape of the match, although it was the 2nd most popular formation chosen by the KingFut team for this match (read KingFut’s XI here).

Appiah’s decisions had more to do with personnel as a result of the defensive crisis Ghana is undergoing (two starters injured, one suspended). The coach kept the Ghanaian’s typical 4-4-2 shape seen in earlier matches, with Opare switching from his typical RB position to LB in order to try and combat Mohamed Salah and Inkoom slotting in at RB. Essien returned for the Black Stars, and Gyan started the match playing off Waris upfront.

First Half Formation

First Half Formation

Bradley chose to go with a conservative striker-less 4-3-3, with three combative central midfielders and Abo-Treika leading the attack in a sort of ‘false nine’ role. The thinking was probably to slow down Ghana’s powerful midfield, their obvious strength, by having three holding midfielders as well as Treika dropping deep to get the ball. Protection of ’s center backs against the Ghanaian’s pacier frontline seemed to also weigh on Bradley’s mind, evidenced by the setup and the selection of the faster Kenawy instead of Moawad at LB

Key Battles:

Salah vs. Opare: The fill-in LB ability to deal with Salah seemed to prove crucial to Ghana’s survival

Gyan vs Naguib: A Ghanaian strength matched up against an Egyptian weakness made this a key individual battle

Essien/Muntari vs. Ghaly/Ashour/Nenny: Center midfield power by Ghana trying to be combatted through a numerical advantage.

Ghana direct, Egypt CBs struggle 2 on 2:

Ghana started the match on a bright note, pressing from the first minute and energized by the home crowd behind them. Within 10 seconds they could’ve taken the lead when a mistake by the Egyptian defense allowed Gyan to get a clear shot at goal, but Ekramy saved.

Ghana pressed high up the pitch early, forcing the Egyptian backline into a series of consecutive errors and dominating possession for the first couple of minutes. As noted in the tactical preview by KingFut here , Ghana usually favor a direct style, knocking long balls for their fast strong forwards to latch on and either turn and run, or wait for support. Poor positioning by the Egyptian defensive midfielders, as well as a lack of pressing up front due to the absence of an out-and-out striker, led to the Ghanaian defense and defensive midfield completely bypassing the midfield zone and getting the ball to their two strikers constantly, challenging the Egyptian CBs.


Ghana’s first goal on 4 minutes came as a result of the previously mentioned poor positioning of the defensive midfield. As you can see in the snapshot here:


All three defensive midfielders are bypassed completely by Essien’s direct ball to Waris, with no depth whatsoever provided by Ghaly or Ashour. This leaves Egypt’s two CBs 2 on 2 with Ghana’s strikers. Gomaa tries to play Gyan offside but is let down by Fathi on the right, and it turns into a foot race between Gyan and Naguib, of which there will only be one winner.

This goal highlighted a key theme in the game, the Ghanaians bypassing the Egyptian’s numerical advantage in the midfield zone (4 vs 2, with 3 CMs+ Treika up against Essien and Muntari) due to poor positioning and the use of long balls.

Essien and Muntari were absolutely dominant at this point, pressing well and using the ball extremely well to take advantage of the Ghanaian’s superior pace.

Naguib vs Gyan, CB-LB zone:

As evidenced by Bradley’s team selection, he was obviously worried by the Ghanaians’ pace and ability to beat Egypt’s CB. The coach identified the correct thing to focus on by protecting his CBs, but poor execution let him down by the trio of midfielders as well as a disastrous performance by Mohamed Naguib. Naguib was absolutely torn apart by Gyan’s movement, and had no answer for his pace. It was a failure of the team that Ghana was able to isolate this matchup and a failure by the player to do anything to stop Gyan from having his way with him.

The relationship between Naguib and Kenawy was also put under pressure a lot by Ghana, with Kenawy guilty of not lending enough help his CB in dealing with Gyan, who exploited the space left between them. Gyan lateral movement was excellent, drawing Naguib out to the left in the space left behind Kenawy and beating Naguib countless times. The second goal came through this flank, with Soliman misplacing a pass that led to a Ghanaian counter attack down the right. Kenawy was caught out, and Ashour who had the responsibility of covering for him did not track back (although in fairness he did get injured on the play) allowing Essien to break free and beat Naguib once more in space.

Gyan Movement vs CB-LB

Gyan Movement vs CB-LB

As seen in the image, Gyan used the space between Kenawy and Naguib to his advantage, with Naguib struggling to match him for speed and Ashour providing bad cover.

Ashour injury; Bradley reshuffle:

Right after the second goal, Ashour was injured, giving Bradley an opportunity to reshuffle. Elmohamady came on and Egypt switched to their familiar three at the back shape, with Ghaly dropping back and Fathi moving to CM. Bradley probably wanted to stop the Ghanaian forwards from getting 2-on-2 opportunities in the back, dropping Ghaly in order to have a numerical advantage. Salah also switched flanks with Soliman, perhaps to compensate for the fact that Elmohamady is more of an attacking RB.

Bradley Reshuffles

Bradley Reshuffles

Adjustments improve Egypt:

Bradley’s adjustments immediately made an effect, with Egypt’s extra man at the back allowing them to pass out of the back more comfortably and stop Gyan (who was great) and Waris getting opportunities to challenge Naguib and Gomaa. Naguib also switched sides with Gomaa, allowing Gomaa to directly challenge Gyan who was giving Naguib a very difficult time prior to the switch. Fathi also solidified the CM area, getting in more tackles than Ashour had the entire match and injecting some energy into Egypt’s play.

Salah on the left:

With Kenawy pressing further ahead in his new role as WB, Inkoom vs. Kenawy became a much more direct battle, with Inkoom finding much more space to get forward. Although he presented much of an attacking threat, this also allowed Salah to find space left behind more frequently, and from the moment Egypt switched to 3-5-2 he became much more of a threat. He was brought down on the counter attack by Akaminko once in a dangerous situation, and a couple of minutes later won the penalty that got Egypt back into the game by outpacing Sumalia who charged into him chasing a ball over the top.

Salah finds space down the left

Salah finds space down the left

At 2-1, the game seemed finely balanced as the Egyptians seemed to have adjusted and found a way back into the game.

Essien and Muntari re-assert their dominance; CBs exposed again:

The respite was short-lived however, as only a couple of minutes later Ghana scored off a set piece aided by some terrible defending by the Egyptian backline. Elmohamedy was left alone with three players in the back post, with Waris outmuscling him to score a third and kill Egyptian momentum. A general theme throughout the game was the Ghanaian’s dominance in the air, aided by the raiding forward of their two CMs. That third goal was a huge momentum shift, heading into halftime up two again instead of up one.

At half time, Bradley inserted Shikabala instead of Kenawy, dropping Soliman to LWB. The intention seemed to be to give Egypt more of an attacking threat, as a second away goal could’ve proven to be extremely valuable. Also, Kenawy’s performance left a lot to be desired both positionally and physically. The substitution was Bradley’s worst in-game decision though, as Shikabala, a very creative in-game player, was not nearly as energetic or diligent in closing down the Ghanaian defense and midfield. This allowed Ghana to continue their dominance.

After half-time the same pattern continued, with the Ghanaian’s directly challenging Egypt’s now three CBs, although an emphasis was placed on challenging them aerially, something we touched on in the preview.

Gyan was able to get away from Naguib again and head home a Muntari scissor kick giving Ghana what seemed to be an infallible lead. It was Shikabala who should’ve closed down the Muntari cross but was too late getting there.


At 4-1, the game seemed to be over and the Egyptian team looked a mess, both structurally and mentally. Balls over the top continued to be a problem, and backup keeper Shenawy (who came on for the injured Ekramy) gave away a penalty a couple of minutes later to make it 5-1. Although the decision was a little harsh, it was another example of the Black Stars getting in behind the Egyptian backline, which had been saved countless times in the first half by Ekramy. Ghanaian domination continued in midfield, and a sweet strike by substitute Atsu completed the rout at 6-1.


Although and shape were a factor in this match’s outcome, essentially it was decided by individual performances. Egypt CBs both had completely horrible games, as well as Ghaly who dropped into CB for the second half. They could not compete with Gyan and Waris, especially aerially. Although Mohamed Naguib will be singled out (compounded by his couple of attacking misses), Gomaa was also very poor and Egypt obviously missed Ahmed Hegazy’s aerial ability tremendously in this match, a fact mentioned in our preview.

Bradley’s adjustments were made with the right thoughts in mind, but he was let down by poor player performance. The decision to start with Kenawy on the left, as well as no striker may be questioned though, as perhaps Zaki competing aerially and closing down the Ghanaian back four may have helped the Egypt back line a little. The Shikabala substitution also had an adverse effect, as it led to less pressing and energy in the Egyptian midfield.

The Ghanaians must be commended on an absolutely dominating display. Their front six can compete with anyone in the world, with Essien and Muntari laying the base for a powerful midfield. Gyan also was spectacular, and the dynamism of the front four admirable. Their only question marks remain at the fullback position, which may be solved by playing Essien/Muntari more defensively. Their CBs were a little shaky this match, but both are not considered to be part of the starting XI. Ghana both outplayed and outthought the Egyptians, and is fully deserving of a chance to represent at the highest level



  1. Survivor

    October 16, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    Wow!!! Are you a coach? I wish i could watch football with such technical eyes.

  2. mohamed

    October 16, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    I would of liked to see a 4-4-2. I had a lot of confidence in Bradley but it seems like he didnt have much confidence in the players to start without a striker. At the end of the first half he should of tried to prevent more goals but his substitutions were attacking ones like bringiing shika on. Its like Mido said about him forgetting there is another leg to play.

    I think the second leg should be

    elmo fathi gomaa abdul-shafi
    salah aboutrika ghaly
    gedo zaki

    • Sherif El Masry

      October 17, 2013 at 4:17 AM

      Mya Mya ya m3almy !!


    October 16, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    MR. GOMAA, DO U REMEMBER THIS?…….Egypt captain Wael Gomaa hopes the Pharaohs will
    draw Ghana in the in the World Cup qualifying playoff
    Gomaa believes being paired with Ghana will keep the
    players on their toes and prepare adequately well for
    the decider.
    “I would prefer to face Ghana or Nigeria instead of
    Cape Verde,” Gomaa told a radio station in Egypt.
    “It’s because our players would be taking the game
    seriously against Nigeria or Ghana, but against Cape
    Verde, it won’t be the same.
    “Another reason is that we have already been successful
    against Nigeria and Ghana as we have experienced
    playing them before in the African Cup of Nations unlike
    Cape Verde.”…..NEVER COUNT YOUR…..

    • Kwabena

      October 17, 2013 at 6:23 AM

      I remember that clearly. Gomaa is responsible for this situation. And I suspect strongly that the draw was fixed because Egyptians were scared of Tunisia and Algeria. Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria have top form. And they thought that Ghana was going to be easy. That is the reason why they came up with the strategy they used, AS IF THEY WERE THE HOME TEAM. It is the arrogance of Bradley and Gomaa that led to all this mess. Hassan Shehata, when he was playing a Black Stars dominated by Under 20 players in Angola 2010 on neutral grounds played a defensive game. And he got one goal. Bradley’s arrogance and overconfidence made him play as if he was playing Mozambique. Is he so silly not to notice that he was up against 5 Ghanaian midfielders who had played in the UEFA Champions leak CONSISTENTLY for the past 3 to 8 years. Essien, Muntari, Kwadwo Asamoah, Ayew and Christian Atsu have played in the Champions League constantly. Essien started in 2004. Ayew started in 2008. Muntari beat Barcelona. And he went on to play an offensive game. This is the result!

  4. Ali AbdUl

    October 16, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    all they need is el hadary, legend if he played the last math it would of been like 4-1 or 3-1

  5. afrifootball

    October 17, 2013 at 3:41 AM

    haha are you trolling……you can start watching football like that too if you dont always look foward to goals
    be a football tactics nerd

  6. Kwabena

    October 17, 2013 at 6:15 AM

    I honestly think that Bob Bradley must be sacked. Egypt must get the courage to do that because this mistake he made against Ghana is beyond normal. Ghana and Egypt are giants of African football. Ghanaians accept it, Egyptians accept it. In our last two competitive games in Senegal 92 and Angola 2010, both teams maintained a strong defense and the game became a penatly-box-to-penalty-box game. And it is only one chance in both games that led to the victory for each of the sides in the games. In Angola 2010, Egypt was playing against a Ghanaian team with 7 players in the starting line up who were from the Under 2010 team. BUT Hassan Shehata refused to play this kind of fancy football Bradley played. Hassan Shehata ensured that the team went defensive. Gomaa stayed in the box and marked Gyan. They had other players who stayed in the Egyptian penalty box who marked the opponents. BUT now that Gomaa is 38, look at where he stands in the opening strategy. He was positioned outside the penalty box. Egypt believed they were playing Ghana’s third of fourth team. Bradley’s failure to recognize that he was playing against a Ghanaian team with 5 midfielders who have played consistently in the UEFA Champions League for the past 3 to 8 years is NEGLIGENT for a professional. And his failure to play a defensive game against such a strong team warrants his immediate dismissal. Gomaa should NOT have left the box. He should have stayed int he penalty box and acted as an organizer of Egypt’s midfield. In fact, that was what Ghana was expecting. That is why Muntari was playing in defensive midfield to pile up the pressure on Egypt. And in that case, Gomaa’s experience would have enabled him to organize the defense and soak up Ghana’s pressure. Egypt would have moved on the counter and Sallah and Aboutreika would have outran the Ghanaian defenders. Egypt would have gotten away with a 1:0 loss or a 3:1 loss if they had gone defensive. And that would have meant Egypt would have had everything to play for in Cairo. But the naive view of Bradley to win against a Ghanian team dominated by a UEFA Champions League players with is CAF dominated players was absurd. I think Bradley must be fired immediately! There is no place for such a person in African football. Egypt must consider getting Hossam Hassan as their coach.

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