Big Match Preview: ‘Coachless’ Mauritius meet ‘distracted’ Ghana in Accra

Afcon 2017 qualifier
Match: Ghana v Mauritus
Venue: Accra Sports Stadium
Time: 1530GMT
Mauritius arrived in Ghana on Thursday, trained on Friday and looked decidedly determined to cause an upset.

But the Black Stars, playing in Accra for the first in Accra in close to three years, want to send a message to the rest of Group H.

Not that the Mauritius catain cares much about that.

Captain Jonathan Bru: ‘‘We are here to play as we used to do. We are going to try to do a miracle because we know Ghana is a strong team and is one of the best teams in Africa. But we are going to do everything to try win a point at least or the three points.”

Venue advantage
The last time the Stars played a qualifier in Accra was on September 8, 2012 when they beat Malawi 2-0 en route to qualifying for the 2013 Afcon.

The capital city has historically not been a good grounds for the Black Stars, with Kumasi having pride of place due to a seeming better atmosphere it offers the team.

But in the last year, the Garden City has also had a tetchy relationship with the Black Stars in the run to qualify for the last Afcon leading to the GFA’s decision to opt for Tamale.

“We have not played in Accra for a very long time and if my memory serves me right is been more than two years since we last played here,” Ghana skipper Asamoah Gyan said.

“[Playing in venues across Ghana] is a policy implemented by the officials to rotate all our home games, in the past two years, we have played in Kumasi and Tamale and if we are coming to Accra I think it is in the right direction.

“For us as players we are comfortable with any venue the authorities tell us to play. This is Ghana and we know we have the support of our people so I expect to see the fans come in their numbers on Sunday.”

It’s been rainy so far this month, and weather-permitting, Gyan will get his wish of a good turnout.

Not much to lose
Meanwhile, Mauritius’ Bru (in red, above) wants his team, who don’t have a recognisable coach at the moment, to stun the home crowd.

‘‘I played with John Boye in France nine years ago, and I know he is a strong defender, Dede Ayew too is good but he will not play this game, but we have some players as well and we can surprise them and do something here.

Mauritius are chasing a second Afcon appearance since 1974, but as far as Ghana m idfielder Emmanuel Agyemang Badu is concerned, the three points must be bagged.

“Normally, qualifiers can be tricky especially, because we are in a league format,” Badu told

“For us, we have decided not to depend on any ifs or buts. We want to take our destiny into our own hands and qualify as quickly as possible. We will rather qualify well in time than depend on calculations or arithmetic later on.

“This means we must start getting every point out of every match and off each team we approach and that starts with Mauritius.”

Ghana will know by now that in other groups, Tunisia have scored eight while Cape Verde got seven against their respective opposition, and so the Stars will be expected to really get in the goals on Sunday.

Distraction of politics
Rwanda host Mozambique in the group’s other game and Ghana need every ounce of concentration they can muster. But Avram Grant has not been happy.

Between Wednesday night and Thursday, the government of Ghana released a long-awaited White Paper over the work of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry’s report into the country’s flawed participation in the last World Cup. The country’s media, understandably, veered towards dissecting the sensational contents of the 23-paged report, rather than the qualifier.

“I do not worry about the document because I don’t know what is in it but I don’t think it is fair to release it with three days to a game like this,” he said at a pre-match press briefing.

With the report encouraging investigation into alleged financial malfeasance on the part of top sporting officials and also touching on various aspects of the Black Stars, Avram has been worried about distractions.

“Why did the people wait with three days to the game before releasing it?

“My players are matured and it cannot derail them but I think it has taken all the attention from the game.”

Team news
There are no injuries to report from either camp.
But it is the coaching situation of the islanders that is intriguing. They recently appointed a trio of coaches – Alain Happe, Akbar Patel and Désiré L’Enclume – following the exit of Didier Six a couple of weeks ago.

It is not clear who the head coach is, but the trio have all had a hand in prepping the team.

“The question of their quality does not arise. Ghana is a big team, being runner-up to the Africa title. We must not forget that Ghana has a significant African presence, with constant results. We have before us players who play in Europe – with Gyan, Ayew and others,” admits Alain Happe (pictured below).

“Ghana are the favourites in Group H. Maybe they’ll give us a superiority complex. It’s true that the game will not be easy but that does not mean I think we have no chance. In a match, anything can happen. First and foremost, we want to offer the best possible opposition,” Happe concluded.

Former France international Didier Six was sacked last month by the country’s football association.

It followed his suspension ‘for unacceptable behaviour’ at the Southern African championship, the Cosafa Cup.

“He [Six] informally said that he didn’t want to continue after the defeat against Zimbabwe in the Cosafa Cup,” MFA president Sameer Sobha said.

“But he never informed the MFA officially of his decision and did not attend the training.”

Sobha added that Six has not returned to Mauritius as far as he is aware and hence his dismissal.

The 60-year-old, who was appointed in January, was also fined US$2,000 for his poor behaviour at the tournament as he was sent off during his side’s 2-0 defeat by Namibia.

For the dead and injured
It’s been a tough week for Ghana, who ended three days of national mourning following the deadly floods and fire that hit the capital a week ago.

Official figures say 150 people died, but many believe it is upwards of 200. In response, the Black Stars visited the site of the fire explosion in the heart of Accra, donating the equivalent of $11,500 (GHS 50,000) to those affected.

The players have variously said this qualifier will be played in the spirit of remembering the fallen and the injured, and black armbands are expected to be worn to mark the twin disasters.

Follow Gary on Twitter: @garyalsmith
Story by Ghana/Joy Sports/Gary Al-Smith

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