By Amin Kef Sesay
Whilst the defense and the goalkeeper are central to preventing an opposing team from scoring goals, without a solid, energetic creative midfield to supply the forwards with balls to fire at the opposing team’s goalkeeper, a team can expect no magic.
Communication is key on the field. Every player needs to know what they are doing and what is expected of them. But we all saw how disorganized communication and coordination among our players was in the match against Equatorial Guinea.
Our midfield was lost in wonderland. We saw them running up and down the field with no clue among them as to how to neutralize the highly effective Guinean midfielders that were running havoc and easily feeding the 7, 11 and 10 with balls to keep the Leone Stars defenders and goalkeeper busy.
To say the least, compared to the earlier two matches against the Algerians and the Ivoirians, Leone Stars past Thursday was a poor shadow of themselves.
Kei Kamara when he got the ball hung on to it too long making it easy for him to be dispossessed and for a counter-attack to be launched by the Guineans.
Because we did not know how to coordinate well between the defenders and the midfield to start the kind of offense play that the Guineans were very adept at, we could have easily conceded three goals in that first half without any reply from our one-top man Musa Tombo who could not unleash his prowess because he was completely starved off passes by a midfield that was finding it very had to cope with the pace and resourcefulness of the Guinea attack.
When midfielders receive the ball, they should be able to keep the ball and not allow themselves to be tackled. Using their body as a shield between the ball and the other team’s players is a skill every midfielder needs to master. The Guineans showed that skill.
Simply put, we failed to score against the Guineans because our midfielders could not provide the link between the attack and the defense. They also could not defend as well as attack which would have enabled them to control and dictate the tempo of the game.
We were supposed to have played an attacking midfielder, a defensive midfielder, a wide midfielder and a central midfielder. Each of these, but for Caulker and Kakay, did not perform their different roles well, causing undue pressure on our defense and the goal keeper.
As the name suggests an attacking midfielder has more of a responsibility for helping out with the team’s attacks on the opposition than the other midfielders.
The attacking midfielder should play slightly ahead of the other midfielders behind the attacking players on the team. They should not be going back to defend all the time which allows them to be further up the field of play and nearer the opponent’s goal when they are needed.
A great attacking midfielder can be the difference between goal-scoring opportunities being created or not. Pitifully, we had no creative, imaginative attacking midfielder to create opportunities for the forwards that had the vision to see where the ball needed to be passed or where another player is about to run to before anyone else.
A midfielder has to be able to keep going. His stamina level needs to be high and must have the mental strength to continue playing in any circumstance. We lacked that.
We lacked the two vital wide midfielders that were fast enough to outflank the Guinean defenders and with pinpoint accuracy send Musa Tombo on his way. The Guineans had these and so kept our defense outstretched.
Then most importantly, because the aim of a football is to score more goals than your opponents, having as many goal scorers as possible in the team is an advantage. Thus, some midfielders such as Lothar Matthäus, Frank Lampard, Rikardo Kaka, Michel Platini, Zico scored well over 100 goals each throughout their soccer careers.