Ekow Amoasi

The reappointment of Otto Addo on May 15, 2024, attracted mixed reactions due to the work he did in his first stint and the state of Black Stars having failed to progress from the group phase of the last two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournaments and especially after the Ghana Football Association (GFA) failed to stick to the criteria that was spelt in search of a new gaffer after Chris Hughton was dismissed.

The FA’s decision to boldly hand over the senior national team to Otto Addo for the 2022 World Cup playoffs against rivals, Nigeria was surprising and attracted criticisms and skepticism among football fans.

Despite working as a talent coach and a scout for Borussia Dortmund, Otto Addo in a video released by the country’s football governing body, and his technical team declared their readiness for the game and assured to steer the team to qualification for the Mundial in Qatar.

Indeed, the first leg of the playoff at the Baba Yara Stadium saw thousands of football fans showing up to cheer the team up against the Super Eagles and despite the game-ending goalless, there was a seeming belief that the Black Stars could travel to Abuja and shock their West African neighbours. Masterfully, Otto Addo paraded a squad that secured a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes of football which propelled Ghana to secure its fourth global showpiece ticket.

After the results, Akufo Addo, personally called Otto Addo and jokingly told him he was going to be camped and would not return to Germany but after several talks and discussions, the 43-year-old accepted to lead the Black Stars to the Mundial in the Gulf country alongside Chris Hughton as technical advisor with George Boateng and Mas-Ud Didi Dramani as assistant coaches, the same set-up for the 2022 FIFA World Cup final play-off matches against Nigeria.

Ahead of the tournament, Otto Addo dominated the headlines for the wrong reasons after dropping key players who were on form in their respective clubs. The likes of Jeffery Schlupp, Joseph Paintsil, and Bernard Tekpetey, among other players were all dropped. However, Addo’s attempt to justify his decision that players were invited based on KPIs were criticized by the media and football enthusiasts.

With the hopes of replicating 2010’s feat in South Africa, Ghana suffered a group phase elimination after recording a win against South Korea and defeats against Portugal and Uruguay respectively. Following the Black Stars’ collapse, Otto Addo addressing the media confirmed he will not continue to lead the team as head trainer. Addo’s unexpected decision came as shock to the team and the entire country.

With the hope and anticipation of building on what Otto Addo has left behind, Chris Hughton, who was part of the technical team was elevated to take charge of the team on a 21-month contract. Having had spells in the Premier League, Hughton was expected to improve the team but fans constantly expressed their displeasure about the style and pattern of play of the team. In football, you can play beautifully and win or lose. In the same manner, you can play scrappy and ugly and still manage to win or lose but football fans struggled to see any of these under Chris Hughton.

Having manoeuvred to steer the Black Stars to book qualification for the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast, multiple reports emerged that Hughton would be sacked before the AFCON kicks off. However, it is believed that highly ranked personalities in government kicked against the pending decision of the Ghana Football Association (GFA).

After losing to Cape Verde and drawing with Egypt and Mozambique respectively, Ghana had to pack out after finishing Group B with two points. The Executive Council after the final group game against Mozambique conveyed a meeting at the premises of the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpé Olympic Stadium and shortly, a statement was released confirming the sacking of Hughton.

Following the arrival of the team and officials, the Ghana FA announced that they have initiated the process of appointing a new head trainer for the senior national team with the criteria spelt out. After weeks of intense work by the search committee led by Mark Addo, who is the vice president of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) settled on Otto Addo as the new head coach of the team for the second time despite over 500 coaches applying for the vacant role with Maxwell Konadu and Michael Osei also joining the queue for the vacant job.

After Otto Addo’s appointment was announced, President of the FA, Kurt Okraku praised the committee for the hard work and said Otto Addo was exceptional during the interview process.

“Otto was exceptional in the interview process and was rated highly by the search committee, hence the decision,” Okraku told ghanafa.org

“There were some brilliant individuals among the coaches who applied for the job, so the committee took the pain to interview a chunk of them to pick their thoughts on their intentions to transform the team within a short period of time due to our peculiar situation.

“The Committee was overly satisfied with Otto’s performance for which reason he was recommended to the Executive Council for approval,” President Okraku added.

Having recorded a 33.33% win rate in his first spell as Black Stars coach in 12 games, many football fans expressed their frustrations and disappointment. The criticisms intensified when Otto Addo failed to win any of the two friendly games against Nigeria and Uganda played in March. The Black Stars suffered a 2-1 defeat against the Super Eagles before being held to a 2-2 drawn game against the Cranes of Uganda.

With the 2026 World Cup qualifiers coming up next against Mali and the Central African Republic, several football fans had lost hope in Black Stars’ chances of qualifying for the Mundial which will be hosted in the USA, Canada and Mexico having already recorded a hard-fought 1-0 win against Madagascar and a surprising 1-0 defeat against Comoros.

However, Otto Addo has steered the Black Stars to record back-to-back wins and scored six goals in the two games played in Bamako and Kumasi. The question is, how has Otto Addo managed to revive Ghana’s qualification chances for the global showpiece in less than six months in charge? What has Otto Addo done differently in his second coming?

Here is the breakdown:

  • Taking bold decision on deadwoods and believing in youngsters

Before the 26-man squad was announced for the games against Mali and Central African Republic, reports emerged suggesting that Otto Addo has communicated to some senior players that he will build his team around young players with several portals revealing that Andre Ayew, specifically is not part of the squad. Astonishingly, the captain of the side, Andre Ayew was left out of the squad. Daniel Amartey, who was not injured had no place in the squad, Richard Ofori, who has been recently released by Orlando Pirates was also left out. It is however imperative to highlight that players like Inaki Williams, Daniel Kofi Kyere, Majeed Ashimeru and other six players were left out due to various degrees of injuries as said by Otto Addo.

Speaking on the reason specifically why Andre Ayew had no place in his squad for the games, Otto Addo revealed that he visited Andre personally to inform him about his decision but Andre did not seem happy about it. This move by Otto Addo confirms the earlier media reports.

“I had a long talk with Andre. Personally, I visited him and gave him the reasons why he is not in the squad at the moment. For me, I can say I don’t like to give information out about what we spoke about,” Addo said.

“At the moment, Andre is a living legend of Ghana. It’s unbelievable what he did for the country and it’s the most difficult decision because I like him as a person and also as a player.

“And this is a decision we took, not like he necessarily agreed but I gave him the explanation so I don’t want to take it to another extent and say something for people to write about. I still have big respect for him.”

The decision by Otto Addo obviously did not go down well with some football fans but it paid off by parading young players for the games. Ghana’s starting XI in the 2021 and 2023 AFCON tournaments had an average age of 27.7 years but failed to win a game which led to the exit of the team at the group phase back to back. Otto Addo’s first two games following his reappointment were against Nigeria and Uganda and despite failing to win against the Super Eagles and the Cranes of Uganda in the friendly games in March, Otto Addo kept faith in these young players. His starting XI for games against Mali and CAR, the team had an average of 25.5. This indicates that the average age of the team has been reduced by the introduction of young players. With this decision by Otto Addo to stick with youngsters, it can be guaranteed that there would be a consistent call-up in this new Black Stars.

After the back-to-back wins against Mali and CAR, Otto Addo pleaded that these young players must be given the time to grow and adapt to the system he wants to play.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to build a team and we will need time. We have young players who will grow and adapt.”

Having paid close attention to Otto Addo’s interview with TV3 and Starr FM, I can conclude that deadwoods are not coming into this team again. However, with Otto Addo believing in his decisions and judgments, it is obvious that the deadwoods will be out of the Black Stars as he seeks to build a new team with new energy.

And like Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu said, Otto Addo is the new head coach and his decisions and judgements must be respected and welcomed.

  • Passing the first two tests

Having recorded a 1-0 win against Madagascar at the Baba Yara Stadium and a shocking 1-0 defeat to Comoros in Moroni, the chances of the Black Stars to secure a fifth ticket for the Mundial came under scrutiny with thousands of football fans calling for the head of Chris Hughton.

With Ghana now sitting 4th with just three points before the trip to Mali in the matchday three games of the qualifiers, Otto Addo during his presser admitted that it will be a tough game but also hinted that they had a plan to win the biggest game in Group I. Despite the Eagles taking the lead in the first half through Kamory Doumbia, Otto Addo kept faith in his players and rallied them along and finally had the equalizer through Ernest Nuamah who headed home Salis Samed’s cross. With the game seeming to be ending in a stalemate, Jordan Ayew, who was introduced in their second half grabbed the winner as the Black Stars secured the all-important win. The trip to Bamako was described as the biggest test for Otto Addo and his backroom staff but he masterminded a win away for the first time in 2022.

The Black Stars now hosted Central African Republic (CAR) at the Baba Yara Stadium in the matchday four games. After the win in Bamako, the players were beaming with confidence with the entire football circle dreaming of back-to-back wins under Otto Addo for many years. Indeed, Otto Addo rung changes in his starting lineup against CAR but secured a thrilling 4-3 win against Raoul Savoy’s side with Jordan Ayew grabbing the headlines with a superlative hat trick.

The wins have propelled Ghana to the 2nd spot with nine points with a goal difference separating them and Comoros in Group I. With the lack of belief ahead of these games, Otto Addo came up with brilliant tactics and a game plan which has inspired the country’s chances of making it to the Mundial.

  • Solving goal-scoring woes

The Black Stars under CK Akonnor, Milovan Rajevac and Chris Hughton struggled to score goals and failed to win games. In the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, the Black Stars scored just three goals in three matches and failed to win any game. In the last edition of the AFCON in Ivory Coast, Ghana scored five goals in three games and again failed to win any. The Black Stars under Otto Addo during the 2022 global showpiece in Qatar won a game and lost two, scoring five goals in three games.

The lack of goals from the Black Stars was addressed when he met the press ahead of the Mali and CAR games. Before the games, Ghana failed to win any of their friendly games against Nigeria and Uganda in March with the team losing 2-0 to the Super Eagles and a 2-2 drawn game against the Cranes.

However, Addo promised to fix the goal-scoring challenge of the Black Stars.

“We will work on our goal-scoring challenge. Every game is different, but we will try our best to ensure we score more goals.”

I admit that fixing the goal-scoring woes of the senior national team cannot be done overnight but will need intense work and discipline, but the Black Stars scoring six goals in two games is something remarkable. However, Otto Addo must address the defensive challenges and errors of the team.

Conceding four goals in two games is not a good sign of a good team but like he said after the game against CAR, this is a team he is building and they will need time to grow and adapt to playing formula. Game by game, Otto will hope to fine-tune his tactics and team cohesion which will aid his side to be potent upfront and defensively solid.

  • Getting the 12th man along

This is the same Black Stars Ghanaian football fans years back declined to support. However, football is not football without fans. We witnessed teams struggling globally to win home games without their fans during the era of COVID-19. After the Baba Yara Stadium was filled to its capacity against Nigeria during the 2022 World Cup playoffs, the Black Stars have struggled to attract the same number of fans due to their uninspiring performances at major tournaments.

However, after the win in Bamako, over 50,000 fans were eager to watch the game Central African Republic at the Baba Yara Stadium. Over 40,000 fans had access to watch the game with the rest of the fans left at the premises of the stadium which caused huge traffic in Kumasi. The fans were awarded with a 4-3 win.

Even when the team Black Stars were losing 2-1, the fans kept chanting and rallied the team to secure the win. This clearly means that when the Black Stars are performing well, thousands of fans will troop in to watch the team and for the national team to excel, they will need the 12th man at the stadium. With the perfect start of Otto Addo, we can only hope that the Black Stars will keep performing to attract the fans as they keep on fighting to secure a ticket for the Mundial in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

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