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Africa Cup of Nations

MTN June Wrap: Ghana shake off early scare to top group

8:07 PM IST 03/07/19
Andre Ayew of Ghana
The Black Stars are among the 16 teams who survived the group stage of the ongoing continental competition in Egypt

After thorough groundwork, coupled with satisfactory test matches, Ghana departed for Egypt, brimming with confidence and excitement, to open their 22 nd campaign in Africa’s premier national team competition.

Hopes are high back home, as always. The Black Stars last won the title in 1982, when most of the current vibrant football fans in the country were not born. The trophy has eluded Ghana, as finalists, three times since then, in 1992, 2010 and 2015.

Neighbouring rivals Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire have won it in recent years, in 2013 and 2015 respectively, but Ghana’s wait for a fourth title seems unending, perhaps this time, according to the wishes of many locals.

In their opening game in Egypt last week, coach Kwesi Appiah and his team were unexpectedly held to a 2-2 draw by Benin, another West African familiar foe, whom many Ghanaians would write off any day.

Is this the team we are banging our hopes on? Perhaps they underestimated the Squirrels; perhaps the exclusion of John Boye in the 55 th minute played a role in the sheer embarrassment.

The Black Stars’ second game in Group F was against none other than title holders Cameroon, who had won their first match and were leading the group with three points.

The Indomitable Lions controlled the meeting and were the masters, as Ghana managed to force another draw, this time goalless, taking their tally to two points – two meager, many Ghanaians would say!

In the absence of aging Asamoah Gyan, who now sits more on the bench, the Ayew brothers have lived up to the expectations and have been spared by critics of the team’s fair output so far.

Jordan and André both scored against Benin. The younger Ayew found the back of the net again against Guinea Bissau in the final group match.

Ghana won against Guinea Bissau 2-0, with Thomas Partey scoring the second goal. The Stars were highly tipped to pull off a win against Djurtus, but the goalless draw between Cameroon and Benin was what smoothed the path for Ghana’s leap to the summit of Group F with five points.

Cameroon came second, also with five points, but with an inferior goal difference while Benin, with three points, progressed from the group stage for the first time.

With one win and two draws, Ghana’s showing in the group stage in far from being excellent, perhaps Appiah and his charges would shift gears by the time the Round of 16 begins later in the week.

 

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