Ghana’s experience raises the bar – Gyan
Black Stars tend to start slowly but the perennial Afcon finals bridesmaids eye silverware in Gabon
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
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.