Sports News of Monday, 23 January 2017
Black Stars midfielder Andre Ayew says Wednesday’s group clash with Egypt would serve as an ideal preparation for the team’s quarter-final fixture against a yet-to-be-determined side.
He believes that the quarter-final stage would be the test of Ghana’s character and credentials as prospective champions.
“We’ve qualified for the quarter-finals and I can say the tournament is now starting for us. When you get to the quarter-finals, that is the knockout stage, that is where the real tournament starts for us,” he told the Graphic Sports.
The Stars’ deputy captain, who lasted the full duration of the team’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Mali despite being ill in the days leading to the game, said he anticipated a difficult game against the six-time African champions in Port-Gentil but the team would come to the party as a measure of their readiness for the bigger task in the knockout phase.
“We wanted to qualify and we have qualified. Now there’s another game coming up. We’re going to prepare for it. “We know that we have a big game coming up in the quarter-finals and we have to prepare for it and use the Egypt game to make us better for it,” said Ayew who scored Ghana’s winning goal in their 1-0 win against Uganda in the group opener last Tuesday.
Despite being treated for flu, the West Ham United record-signing said he deemed the Mali match very important in their quest to qualify for the knockout phase, hence his decision to take a risk to play.
“I wasn’t feeling well. I had some temperature and therefore had little training yesterday and the day before, but the medical team treated me well. I felt I could help and I gave it my all and I’m very happy we got the qualification.
“The sacrifices we are all making are paying off and make you know that hard work really pays off,” he said in a post-match interview.’
One of the team’s most experienced player, having featured in five AFCON tournaments in the last nine years – 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2017 – the senior of the Ayew brothers was confident the team would come firing on all cylinders against their 2018 FIFA World Cup group opponents despite already securing their place in the next stage of the competition.
“We’re not under pressure so we can go and relax and play our game. We have a lot of quality to do it. We have a good team and show a lot of maturity when we’re playing,” he added confidently.