Grant’s Ghana giants face tough test against Eagles
AVRAM GRANT slouched on his chair like a pensioner on an oxygen mask as he watched Ghana overcome Uganda’s second half suffocation to start their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) campaign with a win.
It wasn’t a pleasing sight but it was a better start to this campaign than in the last edition where the Black Stars lost to Senegal in their opening match.
Despite that bad start in Equatorial Guinea two years ago, Ghana went all the way to the final before losing to Ivory Coast on penalties.
That defeat is among a handful that the Israeli coach has tasted since he took charge of Ghana three years ago. Grant has formed a strong bond with the Ghanaian players, which could be the catalyst to the Black Stars winning their first Afcon title since 1982.
“He (Grant) has had a big influence on the team,” Ghana’s midfielder Andre Ayew said. “As soon as he arrived, we went to the final of the tournament. Since then we have lost only one game (against Egypt).
“We are working hard and we are playing well. He has a lot of influence on us and hopefully we are going to continue like this, but play our football for 90 minutes and not only for 45 minutes like we did against Uganda.”
Mali, unlike Uganda, will offer Ghana a sterner test when they meet in Port-Gentil tomorrow at 5pm. These two nations play a similar brand of expansive football. But they could be forced to be more pragmatic on a pitch that makes controlling the ball a bit difficult.
Ghana will do that without Baba Abdul-Rahman who picked up a knee injury against the Cranes. He was flown to Germany yesterday for further assessment by his club Schalke after Ghana’s medical team looked at him on Wednesday.
The Black Stars medical team said the defender had experienced “a rupture of the meniscus and a particular tear of the anterior cruciate ligament with fluid collection in the left knee”.
“In this tournament it’s important to collect points early,” Grant said. “At this stage the points are more important than how you play because you will gradually improve as the tournament progresses.
“Some of the players haven’t been playing that much in their leagues. They didn’t come in the best physical shape. They worked hard in the training camp (in the United Arab Emirates).”
While the Black Stars are looking to end a 35-year wait to be African champions, Mali are searching for their maiden continental title. Their previous stars such as Frederic Kanoute and Seydou Keita couldn’t conquer Africa before they retired. Samba Sow is confident this generation of the Eagles can do what their predecessors couldn’t. The Eagles started their campaign with a goalless draw against Egypt.
“We know that Ghana are a big team in Africa,” Sow said. “We are here to win. We need to get three points. We have to believe that we can make it out of this tough group. We don’t look too much at who we are grouped with but we look at what we need to do. It is difficult to win this tournament. In the past years we have had some good players like Keita and Kanoute, they couldn’t win this trophy. But we are a new generation with good young players. We want to make history.” Njabulo Ngidi is in Gabon courtesy of SuperSport