Sports News of Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Black Stars coach, Avram Grant, is unlikely to make changes to his starting line-up when they take on Egypt this evening in Port Gentil as he eyes a perfect record into the quarter-final clash with a yet-to-be-determined opponent on Sunday.
Grant told the media that he wanted to improve match after match and was looking forward to win against the side that defeated the Stars in a recent World Cup group qualifier in Alexandria.
He reckons the Pharaohs will come in very strongly as they need, at least, a point to guarantee their passage into the quarter-finals, having bagged four points from two games and need to avoid defeat to keep third-placed Mali from sneaking into the last eight if they get a favourable result against Uganda in the other group clash in Oyem.
“No matter the results on Wednesday we will be in the quarter-final but we want to win on Wednesday. Even though on paper the match is not very important, we will do everything to win the game,” assured Grant, who goes into the game with full strength.
Almost four days in between their matches have given the Ghanaian players enough rest to recover from the gruelling encounter with the Malians last Sunday. Deputy captain Andre Ayew, who featured against the Eagles despite battling flu, is now fit just as defender Harrison Afful who had similar health concerns ahead of the team’s second group clash.
Any expectation of the Ghana coach resting some of his key players ahead of their quarter-final clash were put to rest after the Israeli indicated he will go into the game at full strength to ensure his players enter the knockout stage in peak condition.
“Some of our key players have not played enough matches in the last six months due to injuries and other issues so they need the games, especially because we want to win,” indicated Grant who waxed lyrical about his players’ positive attitude and winning mentality in the competition despite concerns about their second round performance.
“The players fought well, the spirit was good and there are a lot of things we need to do better. We need to improve.”
The Stars may have played an improved game against Mali but they were exposed in the second half and had to rely on their experience and good goalkeeping by Spain-based shot-stopper Razak Braimah to maintain a clean sheet.
The mood in camp suggests that the Stars would go into today’s game more relaxed but would not take the Egyptians lightly as they warm up for the knockout stage. After beating Mali, Ayew indicated that the Stars needed to take the Egypt match as a dress rehearsal for the quarter-final encounter.
“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 the West Ham United midfielder who is accustomed to playing against the six-time African champions, having faced them in the final of the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola, twice in the 2014 World Cup qualifying round and in Ghana’s 0-2 loss in the 2018 World Cup qualifier in Alexandria last November.