Soccer News of Sunday, 27 January 2013
Source: GERALD IMRAY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
.... does know Niger 'most difficult' challenge
PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa - The pressure appeared to have eased — for now — on Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah as he explained with a smile his complete ignorance of Twitter to smirks from two of his players sitting beside him.
Appiah said on Saturday he didn't know anything about "this tweeting thing" and so was unaware of the message of support for Ghana's African Cup of Nations campaign sent on the social media site by former international Kevin-Prince Boateng of AC Milan.
"I don't even know how this tweeting thing (works)," Appiah said as current midfielders Derek Boateng and Emmanuel Agyemang Badu suppressed giggles next to him.
Appiah reacted by playfully hitting Boateng on the head and both then laughed openly.
But while the congratulations sent by Kevin-Prince Boateng to the team after its 1-0 win over Mali reflected the relief of Ghana followers after a poor start in South Africa, Appiah also warned that the toughest challenge in Group B was to come.
Ghana needs a draw against Niger to guarantee a place in the quarterfinals, and a win to be certain of top place in the group — against a team that has conceded once in two games.
"Our next game is the most difficult one," Appiah said at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. "Looking at the Niger team, they are tactically very disciplined. (It's) a very difficult game for us."
The quietly spoken Appiah's assertion was probably mostly to guard against the overconfidence that set Ghana back in its tournament opener, when the four-time champion let slip a 2-0 lead to draw with Congo.
Ghana's victory over Mali straightened that out and moved the team to the brink of the last eight, but despite being bottom of the group, Niger was still worthy of close attention after both the Malians and the free-spirited Congolese struggled to break Gernot Rohr's robust team down.
"We saw them (Niger) play against Mali and Congo. They play very physical football," Derek Boateng said. "They play very tough."
Clearly more relaxed now after shrugging off the second-half slump and loss of concentration against Congo, Ghana's squad likely knows the pressure will return soon enough as the World Cup quarterfinalist gets closer to the decisive moments of this African Cup.
After all, Ghana has a richer pedigree in the Cup of Nations and a poorer recent return from the championship than even star-studded Ivory Coast.
The Black Stars have won four times, compared to the Ivorians' one title, but haven't triumphed in 30 years. Ivory Coast hasn't won in 20.
"I have total confidence in my players," Appiah said. "So far they are doing very well. I always believe in taking match after match. We'll all keep praying."