CREDIT where credit is due. The Football Association deserve enormous praise for bringing Ghana to Wembley for tonight’s friendly international against England. And so does much-maligned boss Fabio Capello for giving the new generation a chance.
Ir was so predictable to hear most sections of the blinkered media pack jump on the band-wagon of rubbishing Capello for having the forsight to leave out the old guard, who will be involved in next week’s Champions League quarter-finals.
After a series of shocking decisions in his handling of the England captaincy, and giving too much information to a media out to hang him, this was a big night for the Italian. And he got it absolutely spot on with his team selection and tactics. It was good to see Andy Carroll score a stunning first international goal. And there were outstanding displays from Villa wing men Ashley Young and Stuart Downing in a free-flowing 4:3:3 formation.
But the real story of the night was the quality opposition provided by Ghana – who brought freedom, style, quality, adventure and a flavour of last summer’s World Cup to Wembley. The passion of their colourful fans was intoxicating and this was an occasion the likes of which is rarely seen in a non-competitive international.
Written off by so many so called experts in the national media as a meaningless friendly and a fixture designed purely to help pay off the FA’s huge investment in the new Wembley Stadium, this was a memorable night worth its weight in gold for entertainment, its value to the manager and for re-connecting with England’s disenfranchised fans.
It was everything an international friendly should be. Competitive. Meaningful. A great atmosphere. And a true spectacle between two sides hellbent on getting a result. England hit the heights with their superbly executed team goal so decisively converted by Carroll to take a 1-0 lead they held until the dying seconds.
But the sting in the tail crowned a marvelous evening. The joyous scenes at the end when Asamoah Gyan waltzed through England’s static defence to slot home a glorious equaliser that sparked wild scenes of celebration summed up what this match meant to the Africans.
Emotional hero Gyan conveyed the mood of the night when he said: “We have been waiting for this game for so long. And we did it for the fans. It was a moment I will never forget”
A rare England match at Wembley worthy of the beautiful game.