Unbelievable dream: Kwesi Appiah’s fairytale is complete

Only 15 months after making his Cambridge United debut against Gateshead in the Skrill Premier and grabbing his first goal against Nuneaton, the striker was showcasing his skills on the big stage in an international tournament.

Having played his part in helping the U’s get promoted to the Football League during his first temporary spell in 2013/14, Appiah was back at the R Costings Abbey Stadium on loan from Crystal Palace at the start of this season and contributing to their first campaign back in Sky Bet League Two when he was called up to the Black Stars’ provisional squad for the competition in Equatorial Guinea.

And so the 1-0 home defeat to Southend on Boxing Day proved to be his last game for United as he jetted off to another continent.

‘It was pretty surreal, to be honest,’ said Appiah. ‘It was a dream of mine to play for Ghana, so having gone to an Africa Cup of Nations with the squad is unbelievable.

‘Once I got out there it started to sink in, but to start with it was a bit like, ‘wow, this is happening’.

‘It wasn’t my team-mates that it took a while to get used to, it was more the condition of the pitches that was the initial problem. I had to adjust to the weather conditions, but the players were all cool and to play with quality players makes life easier.

‘It couldn’t have gone much better for me. I made my debut against South Africa and then started and scored in the quarter-final, so it was massive.’

Appiah came off the bench in the 2-1 win over South Africa which secured Ghana’s place in the last eight, and he found the back of the net on his first start as they knocked out Guinea to advance to the semi-finals.

Crowd violence marred their last-four showdown with hosts Equatorial Guinea, with riot police needed to quell the disturbance while a police helicopter hovered close to the pitch.

But Appiah, who won a penalty in the match which was converted by Jordan Ayew, and his team-mates kept their focus throughout a 30-minute stoppage and secured a 3-0 success to book a date with Ivory Coast in the final.

‘Before all the trouble you could feel it was different to the other games,’ said Appiah. ‘It was against the hosts and you could feel the different intensity from the beginning.

‘We didn’t really make much of it (the crowd trouble) at the time in terms of disturbing our game. It was more afterwards that you realised what had happened and that it was more serious than you’d thought, but at the time we had to focus on our game.

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