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We will beat Al Ahly only if we have an alternative game approach!!

Written By Themba Khumalo on Sunday, November 3, 2013 | Sunday, November 03, 2013

Heartfelt greetings to our Orlando Pirates family, all football loving South Africans and the throng of nations that supported us in neighbouring Sub-Saharan countries.

Let me take this moment to reflect on our game against Al Ahly of Egypt. First and foremost I am perpetually awed by the growing confidence on the ball. However, being overly confident about our collective or individual attributes can be equally detrimental and prove to be our players 'Achilles' heel.

Without taking anything away from our players and the technical team, I would like to point out the following weaknesses that have characterised the Mighty Bucaneers under the stewardship of various coaches:

1. Lack of alternative game plan and forgetting that strategy and tactics that helped us beat for example Al Ahly in Egypt will or may not work today or anytime in the future. We played three (3) games against Al Ahly, however the manner in which we approached those games was but characterised by a completely monotonous and predictable game approach. The Al Ahly technical team has managed to anticipate how our technical team plans against them (Al Ahly) than our technical team does. It should be noted that our short passing football characterised by slow build-ups from the back serves Al Ahly's defensive game plan very well. Failure to play penetrating balls and making runs within Al Ahly's penalty box makes us way too predictable. How I wish that the coach can practice penalty box runs with our players, as that is what let us down. We will never trouble Al Ahly for as long as we knock the ball back and forth in front of their defenders and outside their eighteen (18) yards area.

2. Secondly, one area that we have not utelised effectively in this campaign is set pieces. Our coach needs to take seriously set piece practice at training sessions, and this he must do with Al Ahly's Player's height in view. The only way we can have the best of set pieces against Al Ahly is making penetrative runs and passes in their penalty box and be fouled in such strategic areas. Set pieces are part of football and should be practiced thoroughly and taken with the kind of seriousness they deserve.

3. Yesterday I wished that Vieira Masalesa would lend our players his football brains. If you may have noticed, there is a weakness in our players that emanates from over-confidence and that weakness is holding the ball for up to ten (10) seconds and making meaningless runs and back passes. When playing a defensively organised team like Al Ahly you cannot afford to waste time holding the ball, especially in compromising areas, failure to release the ball within one or two seconds gives a defensively astute team like Al Ahly time to regroup their almost impenetrable defensive wall. Our players must be offensively decisive if they are to beat Al Ahly's defence, these are football basics and it was through these basics that we saw Bibo open the scoreline against the same Al Ahly in their back yard. This too is a result of exaggerated confidence and a penchant for individual brilliance and glory.

4. Basking under the glory of playing in the final does come not only with its pressures but excitement as well. In the buildup towards this game I was alarmed by how the media accessed our players and the technical team and even our training sessions. While this media frenzy may have pumped the hype towards Saturday's game, it has equally compromised and put our technical team's plans on the spot-light and make it easy for our opponents to plan against us. The Art of War does warn against divulging details that have a potential of compromising your strategy and tactics:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles because victory is always certain. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu

If you have noticed Al Ahly wins their games without expending a lot of energy, they sit back and let you chase the wind by playing in front of their defence, while they conserve their energies. When you get weary they catch you on thunderous counter attacks. They are masters of the Art of War in their own right. Sun Tzu does further warn that:

“One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not most skillful. Subduing the other's military without battle is the most skillful.” – Sun Tzu, and this is the area that most successful teams and coaches the world over have mastered, i.e., using the enemy's strengths against them (your enemy). On Saturday Al Ahly used our strength's (Orlando Pirates) against us.

I hope the technical team will for a change stop planning against Al Ahly's strengths rather plan to neutralise the enemy forces by effectively turning the enemy's strengths against them (Al Ahly). This we can achieve, this game will be won at a psychological level, brains more than brawn will be needed in Cairo.

Orlando Pirates' Supporter,

Kabelo Diphoko,
Kutlwanong, Odendaalsrus,
Free State Province
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