Ghana the only star for Mag­pie Atsu

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

CHRIS­TIAN ATSU has been rekin­dling his love af­fair with the Africa Cup of Na­tions in Gabon, vow­ing that he’ll never put any club ahead of rep­re­sent­ing Ghana in the show­piece.

Atsu was one of the stand-out per­form­ers in the last edi­tion of the Af­con, tak­ing home the Player and Goal of the Tour­na­ment awards along with the sil­ver medal Ghana re­ceived for fin­ish­ing be­hind Ivory Coast. The Eng­land-based mid­fielder has con­tin­ued where he left off. He has been a marvel to watch, pick­ing up the Man of the Match award in Ghana’s 1-0 win over Uganda.

He had a field day with Mali’s de­fend­ers in the vic­tory that took the Black Stars to the last eight.

On the same day that Ghana beat Mali 1-0, Atsu’s club New­cas­tle beat Rotherham 4-0 without him. The 25-year-old sent his team­mates con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sages af­ter that vic­tory and they re­turned the favour. The thought of be­ing in Eng­land in­stead of be­ing with Ghana at this time hasn’t crossed his mind. Cameroon weren’t that for­tu­nate in as­sem­bling their squad for the show­piece. Eight play­ers, in­clud­ing Liver­pool’s Joel Matip, snubbed the In­domitable Lions – choos­ing their clubs ahead of their coun­try.

“You can’t com­pare any­thing with your coun­try,” Atsu said. “Your coun­try must come first. It is al­ways an hon­our to rep­re­sent my coun­try. Any time I am called, I will al­ways be avail­able. I will never refuse to rep­re­sent my na­tional team be­cause I put my club first. Play­ing for Ghana means the world to me. I am glad that my club knows where I stand with rep­re­sent­ing my coun­try. They un­der­stand be­cause the (af­con) is the big­gest tour­na­ment in Africa. As an African and a Ghana­ian, I have to be there to rep­re­sent my coun­try.”

Atsu and his Ghana­ian team­mates have shown glimpses that they could stay in Gabon un­til Fe­bru­ary 4, the day of the fi­nal. They have used their ex­pe­ri­ence to grind out re­sults on a bad pitch at Stade de Port-Gen­til. De­spite be­ing pushed by both the Cranes and the Ea­gles, the Black Stars kept back-to­back clean sheets in those wins.

They will be look­ing to keep a third suc­ces­sive clean sheet against Egypt to­mor­row night in their last Group D match.

The Pharaohs need to avoid a de­feat to make it to the last eight. Mali will be hop­ing that Ghana does them a favour by beat­ing Egypt.

That would leave Mali need­ing only a vic­tory against Uganda in the last round of matches that will kick-off at the same time, 9pm. The Black Stars would love to get one over Egypt.

The Pharaohs won 2-0 the last time these two na­tions met. A win over the seven-time African cham­pi­ons would give Atsu and com­pany a 100 per­cent and also send a strong mes­sage to their ri­vals, but more im­por­tantly their fans who have seen them lose two fi­nals in the last four edi­tions.

“For some time the fans were not be­hind the Black Stars due to some rea­sons,” Atsu said. “We have to give them what they de­serve.” UN­FIN­ISHED BUSI­NESS: Ju­lian Redel­inghuys wants to be part of the process to build the Spring­boks up again.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.