By: Evans Gyamera-Antwi (@AshesGyamera on Twitter)
There has been a sudden strange optimism among many Ghanaians that the country is destined to annex the Africa Cup of Nations amid the Black Stars’ poor showing in their opening two games at the tournament
After forging a huge reputation as one of the finest sides in Africa over the years, Ghana, without a doubt, is one of the favourites to win the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations but when this feeling is currently mainly backed with superstition and sheer coincidence instead of quality football displayed by players and tactical ingenuity of the coach, it becomes a thing of worry.
According to a section of Ghanaians, the Black Stars seem to completely have similar fate, luck and trend just like during 1982 edition held in Libya, where they won their fourth and last major trophy in a fashionable manner. To even some of them, the last trophy won was on an Arabian soil and since current hosts Egypt is also an Arabian country, everything is in order.
Again, the Black Stars’ first two games in this year’s tournament (2-2 vs Benin, 0-0 vs Cameroon) have produced similar results to that of 1982 when they shared the spoils 2-2 with Libya and also had a goalless draw against Cameroon but defeated Tunisia 1-0 in the final group game and went on to win the trophy.
Also, some have argued that since George Alhassan who hailed from the Northern part of Ghana scored the country’s first goal in 1982 and with Andre Ayew having the same root equalling it as he netted the country’s opening goal against Benin, the chart will definitely repeat itself.
But without even digging deeper, a lot of incidents that happened in 1982 and few years before had several similarities in 2015 but Ghana still lost that year’s Afcon and that means coach Kwesi Appiah and his players rather have to step up their performances because what they’ve produced so far is an eyesore.
Before Ghana lifted the 1982 Afcon, Asante Kotoko had won three consecutive Ghana Premier League titles (1980, 1981, 1982) just like they won in 2012, 2013 and 2014 but the Black Stars failed to win the 2015 Afcon after reaching the final under former coach Avram Grant.
Interestingly, Kotoko during that period of conquering Ghana, had a player called Opoku Nti who later returned to the club as General Manager in 2015 but Ghanaians did not have the Afcon trophy that year despite a lot of superstitious beliefs linking his return to the club.
Furthermore, in 1982, there was a player called Kwesi Appiah (who is the current coach) in the Black Stars squad and another Kwesi Appiah (currently active) from Crystal Palace emerged in 2015 but the country ended the tournament in pain as the latter even scored against Guinea to propel Ghana into the semi-finals.
Identically to the 1982 tournament, there was also a player called Abedi “Pele” Ayew in the setup just like we had Andre Ayew and Jordan Ayew who happen to be his sons in the 2015 squad presented by the Black Stars but Ivory Coast defeated us to emerge as champions.
Once again, Andre Ayew scored Ghana’s opening goal in 2015 as many people are comparing it to Geroge Alhassan of the 1982 squad, yet we lost the title so for Ayew to score the first goal in this year’s tournament should not be a yardstick to measure anything.
Nigeria won the Afcon in 1980 and Ghana won it in 1982. In 2013, Nigeria defied all odds to win the Afcon again under Stephen Keshi of blessed memories but Ghana could not win it two years later despite several incidents repeating.
The last time Ghana won in 1982, Brong Ahafo United were in the Ghana Premier League and they returned from relegation after a decade in the lower division in 2015 but nothing better happened to the Black Stars’ quest to end the trophyless run.
Now, with only two points in the bag at the tournament and elimination starring at the faces of the Black Stars, they cannot afford dropping even a point in the crucial fixture against the Guinea-Bissau on Tuesday but must manage to score full marks.
Ghana need a victory now than ever and all attention should be on team preparation, tactics, substitutions while the game kicks off and of course winning bonuses since we have a precedent not superstition. Kwesi Appiah is expected for once to have tactics that would rip his opponents into shreds, having failed against Benin and Cameroon.
The 59-year-old gaffer is the most fortunate indigenous coach for the senior national team in the 21st century and must prove at this crucial stage why he deserves the whopping $35,000 paid into his account every month. His tactics and player selection must be apt, game management superb and substitution at the right time or he will face the wrath of Ghanaians since he is still yet to convince many even in his second coming as a coach.
In the Black Stars’ last four games under his watch, he has failed to win any and it is interesting to even know that Appiah has picked only four wins out of his last 11 games in all competitions, pathetic.
With only 21 wins in 46 games — 45.6 per cent winning rate — since his return as the Black Stars boss, it brings about the feel of pessimism among a section of Ghanaians that the ‘national project’ of winning the Afcon after going trophyless in 37 years may not be achieved.
Appiah, personified as a lion (coach) with small penis (poor game plan) must compensate with a mighty roar (improved tactics with variations) to save the blushes of the four-time champions who have made it to the semi-finals of the last six tournaments and finishing as runners-up in two of those.