GHANA WANNA GIVE GYAN SUPER SEND-OFF
Black Stars to shine, Pharaohs’ pyramid scheme, Cranes eye lift-off, a Mali party
SWANSONG?: Asamoah Gyan has been Ghana’s stop star for many years but has yet to win the Afcon. The skipper has hinted that this could be his final tournament and his countrymen are likely to go all out to help him win the elusive title.
EGYPT HAVE awoken from a seven-year long comma to find themselves in the group of death in their first Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) since 2010. The Pharaohs don’t mind because the turmoil they endured since lifting the Afcon for a record seventh time at Angola 2010 was much tougher than the challenge from the Black Stars, Uganda and Mali.
The Arab Spring uprisings that toppled Hosni Mubarak went from Tahrir Square right to the stadiums across Egypt. The national team suffered because of that. That revolution found the most successful African nation struggling to even qualify for the tournament. The uprising created divisions in the country, leading to the one thing that united even staunch enemies like Al-Ahly and Zamalek to find more reasons to hate one another. However, those clubsstill managed to dominate the continent even though their domestic league was shut down at one point and when it opened they had to play behind closed doors.
When normality returned, to a point that Egypt were allowed to play in front of a packed stadium in the 2-0 win over Ghana in Alexandria in a 2018 World Cup qualifier, the nation breathed a huge sigh of relief and put on a show. The Pharaohs will look to take that normality to the Afcon. The tournament has been a pretty simple affair, 16 nations come together to display the best of African football and more often than not Egypt leave as champions. They have the master key to unlocking where the trophy lies.
The Black Stars, on the other hand, have banged the door that contains the trophy. Just like it was Ivory Coast’s time to be African champions in 2015, so is the case with Ghana this time around.
They have a quality side that can achieve that and it would be a perfect send-off for Asamoah Gyan. The Ghanaian captain has hinted that this could be his last Afcon campaign.
His previous campaigns have been littered with disappointment, especially in the last edition. Ghana lost on penalties to Ivory Coast whose golden generation finally picked up gold. What gives Ghana the edge over Egypt is that they have players with experience of competing on this stage.
The Egyptians have been forced to shed some of their experienced campaigners in the past troubled years when legends such as Mohamed Aboutrika and Wael Gomma called it quits to make way for an exciting young group that includes Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Elneny, Kahraba and Ramadan Sobhi. Competition was so stiff upfront that Basem Morsi couldn’t find a place. Veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary, who was there when Egypt won a hat-trick of Afcon titles from 2006-2010, will bring much-needed experience as part of the four players in the 23-man squad who have played in this tournament.
There isn’t a single individual who has been here before for Uganda. The Cranes are making their first appearance since 1978 and they can spoil the party. Mali have a good squad, but they could be the whipping boys of this group . SUPERSPORT has an impressive line-up of analysts to unpack the 31st edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Gabon from tomorrow until February 5.
The channel will broadcast all 32 matches live and in HD.
The analysts, who will offer insight on the matches, have personal connections with the tournament.
Joseph Yobo lifted this trophy in 2013 with Nigeria. It was a good finish to a career that saw him earn more than 100 caps. JOSEPH YOBO
He will be alongside a familiar foe in South African Benni McCarthy. The two had countless tussles in the English Premier League. But before McCarthy played in England, he dazzled in the 1998 Afcon where he scored four goals against Namibia as Bafana Bafana finished second. He went on to play at four more tournaments. McCarthy will bring along his uncensored analysis. SAMMY KUFFOUR
The quintet will also be a part of Masterplan, an hour-long magazine show airing on Sundays at 4pm that will dissect all the matches played in the week.
Award-winning journalist Thomas Kwenaite will be in Gabon with Andrew Kabuura and Michael Katahena. They will bring insight from the Zimbabwe, Uganda and Ghana camps. The trio will also supply content for Akwaaba, a 30-minute magazine show presented by Carol Tshabalala on Saturdays at 4pm.