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Sports Features of Monday, 14 January 2013

Source: Mark Gleeson

AFCON 2013 Profile: Ghana

FIFA Rank: 29
Coach: James Appiah
Captain: Asamoah Gyan
Nickname: The Black Stars
Best AFCON finish: Winners (1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982)
AFCON 2012 finish: Fourth-place

AFCON PEDIGREE:
Ghana are four-time Africa Cup of Nations champions (1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982) which makes them the second most successful team in the tournament's history behind Egypt.
The West African giants went through a period of mediocrity in the competition in the mid-1980s to late-1990s. During that period they were eliminated in the group stages, while they failed to qualify for the finals altogether on three attempts.
The Black Stars came agonisingly close to earning a fifth title in the 2010 competition, but they slumped to a 1-0 defeat to the Pharaohs in the final.
They then headed into the 2012 edition as one of the pre-tournament favourites, but were knocked out in the semi-finals by eventual winners Zambia, before losing 1-0 to Mali in the third-place play-off.

Key players:
Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus). Age: 24. Pos: Midfielder
Signed by Italian champions Juventus from Udinese in June, he was a teenage debutant for the Black Stars. Played at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and is now close to 50 caps for the country. Operates effectively behind the strikers.

Asamoah Gyan (Al-Ain). Age: 27. Pos: Forward
A missed penalty with the final kick of the game cost Ghana a World Cup semi-final place in 2010. Gyan won widespread sympathy for his trauma but that turned to derision last year when his lack of form at the Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon contributed to Ghana's failure to reach the final.

Christian Atsu (FC Porto). Age: 21 Pos: Winger
The new hope of Ghana football who has emerged into the side since the last Nations Cup and who is expected to be among the young stars of the tournament. He was first brought into the Porto squad aged 17 by Andre Villas-Boas but this is his first season with regular game time.

Prospects:
Ghana will be among the favourites for the tournament, although they are without Andre and Jordan Ayew and have lost the influence of injury prone John Mensah in defence. The heavy burden of expectation on the team has sunk them repeatedly in the past and it is now more than 30 years since they won the last of their four Nations Cup titles.



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