Black Stars’ Jor­dan has big shoes to fill … and shine

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJABULO NGIDI

JOR­DAN Ayew is re­ferred to firstly as the son of the leg­endary Abedi Pele, then the younger brother of the sen­sa­tional An­dre, be­fore he is his own man. That leaves him with lit­tle room to be av­er­age as the holder of the fa­mous Ayew sur­name.

He has strug­gled to step out of the huge shadow his fa­ther and brother have cast over him. But against Mali, he showed glimpses that he could be his own man. Jor­dan doesn’t do the lead­ing role well, which is why he is con­stantly crit­i­cised and la­belled as an av­er­age player. But he is one hell of a team player.

In the 1-0 Af­con win over Mali, he cov­ered more ground than any of the Black Stars’ at­tack-minded play­ers.

He even came up with the as­sist that al­lowed Asamoah Gyan to break the record as the Ghana­ian with the most goals in the Africa Cup of Na­tions.

Gyan over­took Jor­dan’s brother An­dre with his eighth goal. That goal also booked Ghana a place in the quar­ter­fi­nals with a game to spare.

“Two of our stars here aren’t 100 per­cent fit. That’s Asamoah and An­dre, who is com­ing back from an in­jury. I have to run an ex­tra mile to cover for them, for the good of the team. I do that with a good heart and a good spirit be­cause the im­por­tant thing is the team,” Jor­dan Ayew said.

“We are proud and happy that we have qual­i­fied for the knock­out stage with a game to spare.

“In the last edi­tion, it was a bit dif­fi­cult be­cause we started with a loss (yet went on to reach the fi­nal). This year we started bet­ter and won the first two games. That’s a big pos­i­tive as a team. It has brought a lot of con­fi­dence and lifted the spirit in the camp.”

Ayew’s con­fi­dence has been grad­u­ally im­prov­ing in this tour­na­ment.

He will look to take it up a notch tonight in Port-Gen­til dur­ing Ghana’s last Group D match against Egypt. The Pharaohs must avoid de­feat to go through to the last eight.

Mali, who will be in Oyem against Uganda at the same time, need to win by more than three goals and hope the Black Stars beat Egypt to make it to the quar­ters.

Ayew looked in­sulted at be­ing asked if his con­fi­dence is grow­ing.

“I am al­ways con­fi­dent,” he snapped. “I know the qual­ity I have. The coach has con­fi­dence in me. There is no prob­lem. The play­ers have con­fi­dence in me.”

If Ghana top Group D, as they are ex­pected to do, they will re­main in Port-Gen­til with its patchy pitch to take on the Group C run­ners-up in the quar­ter-finals.

“We all know the sit­u­a­tion about the pitch,” Ayew said. “We aren’t go­ing to use that as an ex­cuse. It’s af­fect­ing my game, our team’s game and all the other teams play­ing here. No one has an ad­van­tage, so you just have to be smarter and play the con­di­tions. We changed our game, we were more di­rect. We played long balls and had to be fast for the sec­ond ball. It has worked per­fectly.

Ayew con­tin­ued: “In football they re­mem­ber who won. They don’t re­mem­ber how you played and who had more pos­ses­sion. If you go back to the two finals we played, against Egypt and Ivory Coast, we were bet­ter than them in terms of pos­ses­sion but they won.

“Ev­ery­one re­mem­bers win­ners, not how we played. We have that win­ning men­tal­ity now and we have to keep on win­ning.”

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