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Sports News of Sunday, 31 January 2010


Dede aims to walk tall in father's footprints

Dede Ayew was not even an idea when his father Abedi Pele Ayew helped Ghana to their last Africa Cup of Nations triumph in 1982.

Only eight teams took part in the competition when Ghana ruled the roost in Libya.

But Pele, considered the greatest football player in his country's history, was suspended for the final.

Today's Afcon final presents an opportunity for the son to surpass the father, as Ghana try to annexe their fifth continental crown and deny Egypt a chance of claiming a hat-trick of titles.

One of eight youngsters who have surpassed expectations after stepping into the senior Ghana side, Ayew is on the cusp of carving a unique family history.

Exciting as their youthful exuberance has been, there are several signs of vulnerability about the Ghana team.

Their escape with a hard fought 1-0 victory in the semifinal against Nigeria had much to do with a dogged defensive display in the second half, but Ghana were helped by the toothless attack of the Super Eagles .

Failing to finish off an opponent is an error Egypt are unlikely to commit. The Pharaohs carve defences open with delight and have showed an insatiable appetite for goals in this competition.

The tournament's top striker, Mohamed "Gedo" Nagui, has been a super sub, scoring all his four goals after coming off the bench. Team captain and talisman Ahmed Hassan has contributed three in the 14 times the north Africans have found the net across the fields of Angola.

By contrast, Ghana have scored a measly four goals in their bid to end a 28-year wait for glory.

The Black Stars scored first-half goals in their victories against Burkina Faso, Angola and Nigeria - all 1-0 wins - and they lost 3-1 to Ivory Coast in the opening match. They have resorted to manning a roadblock to defend their leads.

That trick will most likely backfire against an Egypt side that launches relentless and merciless raids into enemy territory, which almost always end with a goal.

Lone striker and Ghana's three-goal hero Asamoah Gyan will test his talents against the best goalkeeper in Africa - Esam El Hadari, who has been beaten only twice.

"I believe in my qualities. I'm scoring for my club; I'm also scoring for my country," said Gyan. "I know they are happy back home ... I'm confident because I'm scoring goals. That's what everyone is expecting of me."

Though he acknowledges the Egyptians' superiority, Ghana coach Milovan Rajevic refuses to believe his youngsters will be lambs to the slaughter.

"People are saying we need to score at least two goals against Egypt to win, but I say we need to score only half a goal more than them to win the title. Egypt are a very polished team. They have been playing together for a long time and their coach has also been there a long time.

"We played a friendly against them in Cairo last year and so we know them well."

Rajevic also appears to be comfortable with the underdogs tag: "In the quarterfinals Angola, playing at home and with all their experience, were favourites. Nigeria were favourites, now Egypt are favourites. They've won the last two titles, but we're not thinking about that .

"What's more important, playing beautiful football, or the result?"

Ghana will be dealt a heavy blow if their captain and goalkeeper, Richard Kingson, fails to shake off a groin injury he picked in the game against Nigeria.

From the Egypt camp, it looks as though a hamstring strain suffered in the 4-0 semifinal annihilation of Algeria will prevent Emad Motaeb from playing today.

"He picked up a hamstring injury and he's likely to miss the final," said Egypt assistant coach Hamada Sedki. "There is not enough time between the semifinals and the final, so his chances to be fit for the game are slim."