Ghana’s ex­pe­ri­ence raises the bar – Gyan

Black Stars tend to start slowly but the peren­nial Af­con fi­nals brides­maids eye sil­ver­ware in Gabon

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJABULO NGIDI

ASAMOAH GYAN, a vet­eran of six Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con), ar­gues that ex­pe­ri­ence made the dif­fer­ence in Ghana’s 1-0 win over Uganda here on Mon­day.

Naive Ugan­dan cen­tre­back Isaac Isende tried to make up for be­ing caught out of po­si­tion and eas­ily los­ing the ball by pulling Gyan. The ex­pe­ri­enced 31-year-old for­ward fell in­side the box af­ter that touch, leav­ing Botswana ref­eree Joshua Bondo with no choice but to award a penalty.

An­dre Ayew stepped up and scored the goal that gave the Black Stars three points which see them top­ping Group D.

Egypt and Mali are joint sec­ond on a point each fol­low­ing their goal­less draw while Uganda are at the bot­tom.

This tough group will be de­cided by small mar­gins be­cause of how com­pet­i­tive it is. The Ghana­ians are the most ex­pe­ri­enced of the four teams. The Black Stars’ group of play­ers have been here be­fore and lost in the fi­nal to Ivory Coast in the 2015 edi­tion. Mali and Egypt are in a tran­si­tion phase while Uganda are play­ing in their first Af­con in 39 years.

The Black Stars ar­rived in Gabon on Fri­day af­ter spend­ing two weeks in the United Arab Emi­rates pre­par­ing for this tour­na­ment.

“We are a bit tired,” Gyan said. “The prepa­ra­tions were tough. We got here very late. Most of the play­ers haven’t re­cov­ered from the flight. We were ex­pect­ing a tough game from the Ugan­dans be­cause they have been do­ing well in their past games. But I said be­fore this game that ex­pe­ri­ence is go­ing to count. Peo­ple might think they (Uganda) are do­ing well, but if they could have coped with the de­mands of tour­na­ment foot­ball and the ex­pe­ri­ence re­quired to do well there, then they would have beaten Ghana. That’s what I said a day be­fore this match. They’ve been do­ing well but their in­ex­pe­ri­ence showed.”

The other tour­na­ment favourites, Al­ge­ria and Ivory Coast, didn’t have the bright­est of starts, though.

Al­ge­ria were lucky to get a point from Zim­babwe in their 2-2 draw. The War­riors’ in­ex­pe­ri­ence at this level also cost them as they gave away pos­ses­sion cheaply.

The Ele­phants, the reign­ing African cham­pi­ons, were held goal­less by Togo.

What should give the Black Stars con­fi­dence is that they got the three points even though they weren’t at their best. Only Sene­gal from the teams wear­ing the favourites’ tag started brightly with a 2-0 win over Tu­nisia.

“I think we will get bet­ter in the next game,” Gyan said. “Ghana tend to start (tour­na­ments) a bit slow. The sec­ond game is go­ing to be much bet­ter. It’s very early (though) to start talk­ing about go­ing to the fi­nal right now.

“The most im­por­tant thing is to make sure we qual­ify for the quar­ter-fi­nals. We will think about win­ning the cup from then on.”

Ghana’s sec­ond match will be against Mali on Satur­day. The Black Stars had to deal with more than Uganda at the start of this tour­na­ment. On the eve of that game there were re­ports that Gyan stormed the team’s ho­tel af­ter a bust-up with Ayew over the cap­taincy. The Ghana­ian FA quickly re­leased a state­ment to squash that re­port, in­clud­ing post­ing a pic­ture of the two play­ers to­gether and smil­ing.

Gyan em­braced Ayew be­fore giv­ing him the arm­band af­ter the striker was taken off to­wards the end of the match at Stade de Port-Gentil against the Cranes.

“It’s quite frus­trat­ing when you hear neg­a­tive stuff, es­pe­cially from our own coun­try­men at the be­gin­ning of a tour­na­ment. It’s not good,” Gyan said. “But I am ap­peal­ing to the fans, they should keep sup­port­ing us. There is no con­flict be­tween me and my col­leagues in the camp. We are okay. Ev­ery­body is happy. At the end of the day we won.”

Njabulo Ngidi is in Gabon cour­tesy of Su­perS­port

PIC­TURE: BACKPAGEPIX

ON THE MOVE: Asamoah Gyan, right, of Ghana gets away from Has­san Wasswa of Uganda dur­ing their Africa Cup of Na­tions match at the Port Gentil Sta­dium in Gabon on Tues­day. Ghana won 1-0.

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