Ghana’s qualification to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations seems more difficult than we thought when the draw was held on 20th February, 2010. Getting countries like Swaziland, Congo and even Sudan, whom the Black Stars beat home-and-away in the 2010 World Cup qualifying series to set a record of an African country qualifying for a FIFA World Cup with two games in hand, seemed a cinch for Group I . Needless to mention, that qualification was also the first for an African team aside hosts South Africa. Since the qualification doubled as that for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations Ghana also made it to Angola 2010. With an injury-plagued team, which was mainly made up of players between the ages of 20 and 23, Ghana made it to the finals. That squad was the youngest ever Ghana has presented for an Africa Cup of Nations. No wonder, in the run-u to the quarter-final match between the Black Stars and the hosts, Palancas Negras, most of the home fans referred to our team as made up of babies and that they will have a walk over Ghana. Though events from that match is history, I will not shy away from the fact that Kwadwo Asamoah’s cutting pass to Asamoah Gyan is one of the best in OUR days. Again, Asamoah Gyan’s celebration after the match popularised the AZONTO dance. Those were just by the way!
Seven years of drought
Ghana placed second to an experienced Egyptian team at that CAN. The Black Stars just crumbled in the 85th minute through a Mohammed Geddo’s goal. I found it difficult to understand why Isaac Vorsah allowed that nutmeg. Perhaps, it may have been due to tiredness! But the Pharaohs won a record seventh title at that nations cup. In an interview I had with Jason Schmidt, Managing Director of Voltic Ghana, immediately after that tournament, he prophesied that just like the biblical Pharaoh, whose dream signified seven years of plenty and seven years of drought, as interpreted by Joseph, the football Pharaohs had their seven years of plenty with the Angola 2010 trophy and will suffer seven years of ‘drought’ in AFCON. His words immediately donned on me again after some months, when the Egyptian FA decided to part ways with Hassan Shehata, a coach who led them to a three-peat in the nations cup. He won on home soil in 2006, came to Ghana to win in 2008 and led the North Africans to win in Angola. He, consequentially, equaled Charles Kumi Gyamfi’s record in grand style. Egypt’s woes reached an anti-climax on September 3, 2011 when a 1-2 defeat to Sierra Leone cost the defending champions a place in the 2012 showpiece in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Could it be seven years of hardship for Egypt in the African Nations Cup as prophesied by J. Schmidt?
Chance of winning
The absence of Egypt in Gabon offers an opportunity to the Black Stars in no small measure. At least the past two nations cups have seen Ghana progress steadily. In 2008 on home soil, Ghana placed a disappointing 3rd place. It was disappointing because most fans thought African football has become ‘host-and-win’. Of course, Tunisia hosted and won in 2004 and then Egypt hosted and won in 2006. Ghana, however, failed to host and win. The next nations cup saw the Black Stars move a step up as they played in the finals for the first time in eighteen years. But indeed, a second place finish was a huge harbinger that Ghana stood a chance of winning the nations cup SOON. Without underestimating the might of countries like Cameroon, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal to mention but a few, Ghana could win the nations especially in the absence of Egypt.
The Black Stars should draw the inspiration from the Brazil U-20 team at the July FIFA U-20 World Cup. In the absence of Ghana, the defending champions, the Brazilians realized the only way to make a mark was to move a step up what they did at the previous tourney. They lost to Ghana on penalties after playing over 90 minutes against ten players in the 2009 finals. But since ‘their masters’ failed to make it to Colombia to defend their title, their only option was to take the trophy. The Black Stars should try to win the AFCON trophy in Malabo IF they make it to the 2012 edition.
Fortunately, the Black Stars have a resolute coach in Goran Stevanovic, whose priority for the Back Stars is to win trophies. Commendable!! Indeed, with this mentality from a coach anything short of that will get him piqued. He is also fortunate to have some players, who claim are tired of old and retired players always dinning into their ears that Ghana’s four-time accolade was achieved by them. For example, I heard John Paintsil once, in an interview after the 2012 AFCON qualification draw, say that they want to win the continental title to shut the oldies. For sure Ghana has all that it takes to win the trophy and that will be the subject of my first article IF Ghana makes it for the 29th October draw. Don’t wonder why I have used a big ‘IF’!! Ghana may fail to make it to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea if the Black Stars lose to Sudan in October. But that is not the wish of everybody! For me my utmost wish is to see the Black Stars at the 28th edition of the CAN as we stand a big chance of winning the trophy to surpass Cameroon and close in on defending champions, Egypt.