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Sports Features of Saturday, 9 February 2008

Source: GNA

Yet another long wait begins

By Richard Avornyotse - GNA Sports Desk

Accra, Feb. 8, GNA - The dream was big. Expectations were sky high. There was euphoria everywhere and most Ghanaians were looking beyond Cameroon, their semi final opponents. The focus was on the grand finale against the winner of the other semi final match between Egypt and Cote d'Ivoire.

Then the dream crashed; crushed by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, who were underdogs by the reckoning of every Ghanaian. There was sadness, total agony and melancholy by the faithful fans of the Black Stars. Sorrow, grief, wailing and gnashing of teeth at the missed opportunities that could have kept the dream alive were commonplace. Reality has dawned. Ghana has missed another chance to win a fifth title to equal the collection of Egypt. The Egyptians beat Cote d'Ivoire to get in line for an unprecedented sixth title, while Cameroon could pick a fifth, depending on the result when the two of them meet in the grand finale on Sunday.

The Black Star, who set the record of four wins as far back as 1982 in Libya, would have to wait for another opportunity to get back into reckoning. Yet another long wait begins after we have fluffed a golden prospect of mounting the podium at home, after 26 years in oblivion. There were problems. Yes, a catalogue of them; good reasons to sooth the sinews of disappointed fans and raise hopes of success as we hang around, waiting for another chance to be crowned champions. Yet another long wait begins!

Inspirational skipper and 'StepApp' designer, Stephen Appiah watched from the sidelines as a result of surgical complications of a knee treatment. Laryea Kingston was not fully fit and missed out on the Stars' lost match against Cameroon, aggravating his injury minutes to kick off. Lead striker, Asamoah Gyan was a pale shadow of himself and bowed out to pressure and injury two matches into the championship. Stand in skipper and core central defender John Mensah watched from the stands due to suspension from the previous match and his back up, Shilla Illiasu, who was selected by the coach, hoping he would recover early for the tournament failed to do so, therefore compelling a tactical change on the Ghanaian managers.

Paramount in the reshuffle was the shelving of Chelsea star, Michael Essien from his midfield operations to a defensive role, a move, which cut off supplies from the attackers and made goal scoring very difficult for the Ghanaians.

Yet the Ghanaians went for bricks and constructed well with the ball, keeping possession for long spells and drawing cheers from the expectant crowd, who were, however, denied the chance to burst the bubble with chants of GOOOOAL.

Despite their high level of commitment, despite their bravery and determination, despite their artistry and finesse, despite their patriotism and the zeal to bring honour to mother Ghana, the Black Stars fell like a shooting star due to a single mistake; failure of the back line to regroup quickly.

The impact was huge. Ghanaian hearts sank. A nation's ego was broken. High hopes were dashed and the soaring pride of a people got punctured and deflated. Yet another long wait begins. Angola will be the next destination. The home of the ever-improving Palancras Negras would be the next venue in 2010. Whether it would be a favourable terrain for the Black Stars to get back into reckoning or not would be determined by the preparations the country makes. The GFA has posted a vote of confidence in coach Claude Le Roy. That means he would be in charge of our preparations during the qualifiers for Angola and the World Cup in South Africa. It is the fervent hope of every Ghanaian that the coach would realize his mistakes, accept constructive criticism and plot strategies that would save Ghanaians from the agony and pain that they have just gone through.

Ghana has been living on past glory for far too long. The country was the first to win four titles but have waited for over 26 years without a trophy. By 2010 in Angola, it would be 28 years in the doldrums.

As yet another long wait begins for the fifth title, the country has left her destiny in the hands of Frenchman Claude Le Roy and he must make a resolve to take us to the Promised Land. He has enough time to make his selections and craft tactics that would make the Black Stars meet the aspirations of Ghanaians. Ghana shall no longer accept a situation where failure would be accepted and applauded by those overseeing her football. Le Roy must be given definite directives to win the cup in Angola and qualify the Black Stars for the World Cup in South Africa. There must be strings attached to his contract. He must be seen to be more serious and articulate in the discharge of his duties and must be called to order if he wavered in his track. It would also be appropriate to accord him the due respect as the national coach. He must as a matter of civility reciprocate such gestures. Every Ghanaian has a right to demand an explanation from him on tactics and team selection since it is the Ghanaian taxpayer that has hired him.

Le Roy must end our long wait by delivering the title in Angola. The players have the capability to get to the summit of the African game. They are young, committed and driven by an unflinching spirit of patriotism. They enjoy the support of the government and corporate Ghana. The masses are behind them. Everything is favour of the team. Ghana has the potential to wear the African crown once more. And the ultimate would be achieved if Le Roy and his colleagues, saddled with the technical responsibilities of the team would raise their level of commitment, make the right choices and plot the right strategies to prosecute the Black Stars' agenda. It is a national agenda that must be fulfilled. To win a fifth title in Angola is a task that must be done. "Chooooooobo! Yeeeeeei!" 9 Feb. 08

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