Round two in the clashes of Group F served up quite an interesting fixture. The defending champions of 2017 locked horns with one of the powerhouses of African football. Clarence Seedorf welcomed a tough and determined Ghana side managed by Kwesi Appiah. This was an important fixture for both football legends. A win for either man would put their teams in pole position to qualify for the next stage of the competition. This will be a tactical analysis of the game between Cameroon and Ghana.
Clarence Seedorf played a 3-4-3 on the night. With this formation, Cameroon normally look to start the ball from the back and build their way up. Their use of wing-backs allows them to draw attacking wide players back to defend deeper. This leaves space for their back three to play the ball without much trouble.
On the other hand, Kwesi Appiah played a 4-4-1-1 formation with a lot of pace and athleticism in his side. The former Ghana midfielder wanted his side to look to play on the counter to frustrate his opponents. Ghana possesses the pace out wide to put doubt in wing-backs to limit their overlapping runs.
Above is a chart showing the top ten plays in the Cameroon team during the game. A striking feature to note is the number of passes between the back four. Three of the top five links are made up by Onana and his back three. From the total of 138 passes in the top five links, 84 of those came from Onana and his back three. This was due to the formation played by the opposing manager Appiah. In a 4-4-1-1 it is likely that the midfielders would drop and allow the opponents to have the ball at the back in their own half. A team that plays like this often looks to invite the opponents out of their own half before pressing them.
Onana rarely started the ball on the side of Bong but the most common route of attack came from the left-hand side. Seedorf wanted his side to look to start the ball on one side and then look to change flanks to launch an attack.
As Ghana dropped back, Cameroon attacking plan was limited. Cameroon played fewer balls aerially and looked to play short balls rather to feet.
Statistics from the game show that out of 74 ball losses made by Cameroon a total of 42 (57%) were a result of long balls. Out of the 27 aerial duels between the two sides, Cameroon only won eight of those (27%). On average the defending champions normally win 49% of their duels in the air.
Cameroon did finish the game with 57% possession which shows just how much of the ball they really had.
On the other side, Appiah and his men played a very balanced game. In the top ten links for Ghana different combinations come up with very similar numbers. Ghana are a side that doesn’t focus too much on holding possession of the ball. They are a very direct side.
Ghana on the night successfully launched three out of four counter-attacks ending with a shot on goal. The Black Stars also registered 14 shots which is almost double the amount of shots by Cameroon. Something they need to work on however is their accuracy as only two of those shots were on target.
Ghana are a strong and aggressive side that doesn’t shy away from being physical. On the night they won 44% of their challenges. They also made 69 recoveries after losing the ball which is impressive since they lost the ball only 70 times.
Throughout the game, Ghana maintained a strong defence shape. Appiah’s defence sat deep and allowed Cameroon to play. The Black Stars were compact in defence but also looked to quickly close out anything going out to the sides preventing the cross. This worked well for the men from Accra as Cameroon failed to punish Ghana from out wide.
Meanwhile, Cameroon converted into a 5-4-1 formation in defence like in the picture above. After being silent throughout the first half, in the second half Ghana looked to play through Ayew a bit more. With the striker’s physical strength, Ghana could play off him a lot in this game.
Ghana did little to trouble Cameroon apart from two chances late in the second half. So, credit must be given to Seedorf and his men for an outstanding defensive effort.
A key aspect of the game was the role played by defensive midfielder Anguissa. He was key in the build-up for Cameroon often looking to link up the defence and attack. Whenever the defence were under pressure, he would look to be the outlet.
It was the side from Accra that almost broke the hearts of the Indomitable Lions at the end. With two clear chances, Ghana strikers failed to score to give their side a comfortable lead.
Ghana nearly snatched the points when Kwabena Owusu intercepted a wayward pass, charged forward and fired a ferocious shot against the bar. More spaces opened up in the second half due to Cameroon chasing for the winner. Fatigue began to set in and Seedorf’s side and players found it difficult to track back after losing the ball. By doing this Ghana were able to exploit this space behind the defence.
Another bit of successful hold-up play by Jordan Ayew opened the way for Asamoah who shot the ball straight at the keeper. Ghana were the more lively side in the second half terrorising the defence of Cameroon with strength and pace. The tactics adopted by Appiah in the second half worked well for the men from Accra who almost got rewarded with three points.
It would be the men from Cameroon who would be the happier of the two following this result. With one game left Seedorf’s men look to be the likely side to qualify for the knockout stages. Ghana have all to play for in their last game while Cameroon just need a win to progress as they sit top of the group. After an impressive second-half performance, Appiah can look forward to the next game with confidence.