Six points on Ghana 2-1 Tunisia
1. Ghana replicated the Ivory Coast’s tendency to rely on opposition mistakes and set-pieces to get their goals.
Forcing errors in the opposition is a large part of attacking, and dead ball situations make up a high percentage of goals at any level of football. But the dependency on those two avenues is a damning indictment of the lack of creativity in the two sides considered to the best in the tournament. A final between the two is probable, but it could turn into a defensive stand-off.
2. Tunisia started with a 4-3-1-2 formation, but more like the interpretation of the system favoured by Santos, the reigning Copa Libertadores champions, rather than the static system favoured by a few Serie A clubs.
The key is the defensive responsibilities of the forwards – both Zouheir Dhaoudi and Saber Khelifa dropped to wide positions without the ball, sometimes forming a 4-5-1 with Youssef M’Sakni as the highest player up the pitch, then sometimes dropping into more of a 4-4-2ish shape, with one forward dropping back and the other remaining up top.
3. Tunisia also showed flexibility at the back, with the holding midfielder Hocine Ragued dropping between the centre-backs to allow it easy for Tunisia to play the ball out. Ragued’s willingness to come deep to collect the ball meant he was able to play more passes than any other player.
4. It was odd that Sami Trabelsi decided to change the way Tunisia played midway through the first half. M’Sakni went from the centre to the right, Khelifa from the left to the right, and Dhaoudi from the right to the left. It disturbed the rhythm of the side after a decent opening, and Tunisia went on to have only two shots on target in 120 minutes, a terrible record considering they marginally dominated possession.
5. Bizarrely, the player on either side that completed the most passes into the opposition third of the pitch was the holding player – Ragued and Anthony Annan. It demonstrated how difficult the sides found to play the ball forward and involve attackers in the build-up play.
6. The majority of the game was simply a struggle to find any players in space in attacking zones. Both defended with numbers and matched each other in midfield. With the Tunisia forwards moving out to close down the Ghana full-backs, they didn’t get much freedom on the ball either.
In theory the Tunisia full-backs were afforded more time on the ball, but the technically better Khalil Chammam had to watch Andre Ayew (though he still did get forward a bit), while right-back Bilel Ifa was less comfortable on the ball.