Photo By Senyuiedzorm A. Adadevoh
In June 2014, Ghana’s third World Cup appearance ended in jeopardy as a combination of ill-discipline and seemingly misplaced priorities caused a first round exit.
The love between the team and its fans became strained after with the fans jeering the team in their first game after the Brazil tournament.
An impressive run in the Cup of Nations in 2015 certainly seemed to restore the love. 2-0 up on penalties against Ivory Coast in the final, someway somehow the team bottled it and the rest is history…
23 months on and the team has a chance to go one better and make amends and there is no better way to start it than the team whom they played first after the Brazil debacle and also played first in their 2018 World Cup qualifier.
The Black Stars are winless in their last five matches after drawing with Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa while losing to Russia and Egypt.
Uganda is still in a jubilant mood after qualifying for the first AFCON in 39 years but the honeymoon is over now and the stage is set for real action. They have been bolstered by the fact that they are without a defeat in their last two competitive matches, drawing with
Ghana and beating Congo in Kampala.
HOW HAS GHANA FARED AGAINST UGANDA IN THEIR LAST THREE MEETINGS?
The Black Stars are winless against the Cranes in their last three matches after suffering a defeat in Kampala in 2014 and being held in Kumasi and Tamale in 2014 and 2016 respectively
The first of the three meetings was in Kumasi right after the debacle of Brazil. Tony Mawejje gave Uganda the lead before Dede Ayew restored parity for Ghana from the penalty spot.
That was the penultimate game for then coach, Kwesi Appiah. In the penultimate fixture of the 2015 AFCON qualifiers, the Uganda pipped Ghana, under caretaker coach Maxwell Konadu, 1-0 in Kampala.
The last was in Tamale in October 2016 when the Stars where held to a goalless draw by the Cranes in the opening World Cup 2018 qualifier.
The Black Stars of Ghana are ranked ninth in Africa and 54th in the world while the Cranes of Uganda are 18th in Africa and 73rd in the world.
Our preparations went well. We started in Accra for 4 days with the domestic players, then all the squad gathered in the United Arab Emirates. The spirit is good and we’re looking forward to the first game (tomorrow) against Uganda. Uganda is a tough team that plays very good football. They gave us tough moments in our past two meetings, but that is history now. This is a very tough group. Our task is to show to others that we are a strong team. It is going to be a tough game after all.Football is about pressure, and you can’t achieve anything without pressure. Pressure is not a negative word. Two years ago, they said we (Ghana) are under pressure and we went all the way, but to lose the final on penalty shootout. Now we want to achieve something. These players want to make their fans happy and proud; that’s why I selected them.
I feel honored and privileged to be here. We’ve worked very hard for this moment to come. Millions of people dreamt of this to happen and they are waiting with pride.The last time we played in the Africa Cup of Nations was the 1978 final against Ghana. After 39 years, we are back and our first match is against Ghana again. It is a meaningful destiny. Ghana is a great football nation and we have very good relationships with them; they are like our role models. In the last three encounters they have failed to beat us, but as they say “history will not play tomorrow”.We are back to the Africa Cup of Nations after 39 years. We have no experience but we are full of confidence. Every match is like a final for us. We respect our opponents but we will work hard and try to do our best. It is a test of how far to go and if we want to be among the best in African football we have to prove that.Ghana is a team with top class players and they are one of the tournament favorites. Since 2008, they are always in the top four. They were runner-ups two years ago; this proves they are a top team. What I think of them I will share with my players, not to the public.We will fight for first goal, first point, first win and possible qualification to the next round. The fact that we are the only country from the CECAFA region makes us proud. If we do well, then we have achieved a feat. If not, it’s an experience and a step towards the future. We are building a team and we have a project for Cameroon 2019. I am proud to coach Uganda. Since I took over, we have won 27 games, drew nine and nine losses. We have established a team identity and we will keep this starting from tomorrow’s game.
A win will bring our confidence back because we had a tough preparation. We worked so hard and we’re ready for the first game. We’re playing against a tough side, a side that we have struggled against lately. It’s not going to be easy [tomorrow] but we will do our best. We are here to win, and tomorrow is the start.We came very close to the trophy two years ago. This year we have almost the same players with some young ones who joined the team recently, but 95% of the team is the same. We also have got a coach who has worked with us for two years. There are is guarantee, everything can happen in a tournament. We’ve got a strong team but we have to demonstrate it to people on the pitch.With all due respect to Uganda, but numbers say we’re ahead of them. If they beat us, it will be great news for them; but if we beat them it’s normal. They’re a great team and they improved a lot especially in the last year. We respect them and we’re positive.
We are not here as tourists, we came here for business. We have a purpose and we will start it tomorrow.It’s a good feeling to be my team captain after all these years. It’s a motivation to the players and we are all happy and can’t wait for tomorrow. It won’t be easy against Ghana but we know why we are here. We had good results against them recently. Millions of people are waiting for us with happiness and this is our motivation.We have a great coach who always encourages the players. He’s a blessing to Uganda. We have a lot of young players in the team. Playing against Ghana is tough, but we will be up to the mission.
Avram Grant has a clean bill of health entering this game. Captain Asamoah Gyan returns to the squad after playing only one game for Ghana in 2016 which was also against Uganda.
The striker is expected to be partnered with Aston Villa forward Jordan Ayew in a two prong attack. Dede Ayew will revert to the left flank while the duo of Thomas Partey and Mubarak Wakaso are set to remain unchanged after the Egypt game with Newcastle wide man Christian Atsu occupying the right flank.
The back four has been fairly settled with the Daniel Amartey-Jonathan Mensah partnership set to continue flanked by Harrison Afful and Baba Rahman. Razak Braimah will be the undisputed number one.
Ghana XI: Braimah; Afful, Rahman, Amartey, Jona Mensah; Wakaso, Atsu, Dede Ayew, Partey; J.Ayew, A.Gyan
The only previous Cup of Nations game between the countries was the 1978 final which Ghana won 2-0 in Accra thanks to a brace from Opoku Afriyie..
Ghana hosted and won the Cup of Nations in 1963 and 1978 and also triumphed in 1965 in Tunisia and 1982 in Libya. Uganda came closest to glory in 1978 by finishing runners-up.
Ghana has 16 players who made the 2015 AFCON squad in Equatorial Guinea.
Seven Ghanaian players could make their AFCON debut ( Richard Ofori, Andy Yiadom, Edwin Gyimah, Ebenezer Ofori, Samuel Tetteh, Thomas Partey, Bernard Tekpetey)
Three Ghanaians can make their Ghana debut (Ebenezer Ofori, Bernard Tekpetey, Andy Yaidom)
Asamoah Gyan could be Ghana’s all time leading scorer for the Black Stars in the AFCON. He currently has 7, tied with Osei Kofi.
Asamoah Gyan can reach a milestone of 50 goals for Ghana.
Dede Ayew could be Ghana’s all time leading scorer for the Black Stars in the AFCON. He currently has 6, 1 behind Osei Kofi and Asamoah Gyan.
Follow Kweku on Twitter: @nana_odum. Get more updates on Facebook/Twitter with the #JoySports hashtag