Stars ready for Lions

Sports News of Monday, 19 January 2015

Source: Graphic Online

Avram Grant Coach New.jpeg

The wait is over for the Black Stars as, in few hours, they go into action against Senegal in their opening Group C match at the ongoing African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in Equatorial Guinea.

For Captain Asamoah Gyan, the world will have to wait till the starting line-up is released to know if he can play, having been hospitalised for a day last Saturday for an ‘illness’.

The Stars camp has tried to keep the issue under control, allaying fears that he may be out for a longer period, but quiet on whether he can start tonight’s game or not.

It is an important first match, the results of which can have a far-reaching effect on the Stars’ campaign, considering the fact that they are in a tight group which also includes Algeria and South Africa.

The Black Stars have a history of being slow starters in such competitions, but tonight, Coach Avram Grant is asking them to shed off that tag and start in a manner that will ‘put fear’ in their opponents.

“First point in a group as tight as ours is good, but having three points makes it better. For me, it will also not be about just the points but also the performance. I understand Ghana usually warm themselves into matches, especially at AFCON, I want to see a ‘different, special’ start from them against Senegal,” Coach Grant said in an interview.

Above all, he would want them to play without pressure, even though he knows first matches almost always come with the jitters.

His squad is considered ‘youthful for a blend of experience and first timers,’ but he believes that takes the pressure off them to be able to deliver.

After four days of training in Mongomo, the Stars look relaxed and do not show any kind of pressure, though they know the weight of expectation of their teeming fans around the world.

Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur and Youth and Sports Minister, Mahama Ayariga, are present to motivate and deliver the message of goodwill from the people of Ghana to the Stars, one well received, with the captain promising they will do their best.

Despite the question mark over whether he will play or not, Gyan insists that they will be guided by the positives of their past and be urged on by the history that awaits them.

“We want to reproduce what we did in Angola 2010 when we had a youthful team made up of many first-timers but we managed to make it to the final and lost to Egypt. It is possible, and we are going to be inspired by that.

“Besides, for some of us, this will be our fifth AFCON and we will be very proud to have something more substantial to show for it, as well as end Ghana’s search for a title since last winning it in 1982,” Gyan said.

Beyond doing their best, the Stars will have to show their tactical discipline, bearing in mind the kind of opposition a team as well endowed as the Teranga Lions of Senegal present.

Senegal may have struggled to beat Ghana in previous tournaments as they trail 4-1 in their five meetings in past AFCONs, but that is no reason to expect victory to be handed to the Stars on a silver platter, as the Senegalese come into this tournament determined to exorcise the ghosts of the past not just against Ghana but their own poor showing.