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Opinions of Thursday, 2 February 2017


Stars plot Cameroon fall

Black Stars assistant coach Maxwell Konadu is keeping everyone guessing at the availability of Asamoah Gyan for the team’s semi-final encounter against Cameroun today but has given an indication his players are in no mood to endure a two-hour game and the lottery of penalties and have, therefore, prepared to achieve qualification to the final.

He told the media at the pre-match press conference in Franceville yesterday that since it was physically and mentally draining when matches are decided on penalties, the team had resolved to settle the tie within 90 minutes.

Konadu said he was confident that the Stars would continue with their improvement and he expected them to go all out to achieve victory against the Indomitable Lions at the Stade de Franceville tonight.

Combative midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu is exuding similar confidence that despite the tough opposition they expect from the Lions, they will exact a measure of revenge against them after they defeated the Stars 1-0 in the semi-finals of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations held in Ghana.

“All the teams are well prepared and can cause havoc. We are a very experienced side and we know how difficult it will be, but we are prepared for the game,” said the Udinese player, who is making his fifth successive AFCON tournament.

Today’s game is the first time the two teams are clashing at any level since their encounter in Accra nine years ago, a match which featured Ghana captain Gyan and his assistant, Andre Ayew. The two players are expected to play key roles in Avram Grant’s side aiming at booking a second straight AFCON final ticket.

Gyan, who missed Ghana’s quarter-final clash with DR Congo due to injury, looks fit again after undergoing specialised treatment by Serbian traditional healer Mariana Kovacevic, an auxiliary medical official of the team who supervises fitness training.

And against a solid Cameroun side which eliminated favourites Senegal, Grant appears ready to unleash his star striker, who will make his 100th appearance, to give the team more sharpness in attack.

The Ghana captain is competing in his sixth consecutive AFCON tournament and is one goal shy of reaching the 50-goal mark. He says neither the 2008 defeat nor a landmark scoring fear are on his mind except a victory and qualification to the final.

“We’re thinking about going to the final. Cameroun are a tough side, we are also a tough side and it’s going to be an interesting game.

“All we want here is the ultimate and whether we play well or not, we want to win,” Gyan told the media after the team’s workout yesterday.

Among Grant’s backroom technical staff is former Ghana international Ibrahim Tanko, who was assistant coach of the Indomitable Lions for almost 30 months as second-in-command to German trainer Volker Finke.

Tanko’s deep insights into the Camerounian side will come in handy as the Stars’ technical team crafts a winning strategy for the team.

Like Ghana, the Camerounians have progressed steadily in the competition and got the needed results without playing impressive football. And their elimination of Senegal via penalties is proof of their mental fortitude and toughness which the Ghanaians acknowledge.

“Coming this far without some of their top players who did not come to the tournament shows that they are a tough side and we’re aware of it,” says Agyemang-Badu of Hugo Henri Broos’ relatively inexperienced Cameroun side, which started the tourney slowly and defeated Guinea Bissau and Senegal to book a date with Ghana.

Even though the Lions do not boast some of the team’s big names who stayed away from Gabon 2017, the Lions have progressed steadily based on solid team performance and mental toughness.

For the experienced Ghana team, improvement match after match and a strong desire to end the country’s 35-year continental drought are their biggest strengths and key to victory, having proven against DR Congo that they can fight to win against a very physical side without being the dominant side.