Ghana Black Stars will be seeking for their fifth continental title at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt. They were indeed the first country to get to the 4th title mark but have waited decade after decade in vain, to add to the title haul and the question on the lips of many is; Will these Stars shine again?
Joseph “The Graft” Addai has followed the Black Stars for years and pens this tournament preview for us as we await Ghana’s opening game against Republic of Benin.
The senior national team of Ghana, affectionately known in football circles as the Black Stars have over the years established themselves as a powerhouse in African football. They have churned out some scintillating displays winning the Africa Cup of nations four times in their illustrious history.
They have appeared three times at the world stage and are one of the three African nations to have played at the quarter final stage of the FIFA World Cup; Africa’s best onslaught at that level. Some of the greats to have graced the scene from this part of the world happen to hail from this soccer crazy nation.
Notable amongst them are Abdul Razak, Ibrahim Sunday and Abedi Ayew; all of whom won the prestigious African Player of the Year award. The Black Stars also boast of the African player with the best goal tally in World Cup history in Asamoah Gyan with 6 goals.
The fortunes of the Black Stars in the Africa Cup of Nations have however dwindled since they last triumphed in the 1982 edition. Even though the Stars have managed three final berths since they last won, winning the ultimate prize has proved all but elusive.
They missed out twice in shootouts in 1992 and 2015 against the Elephants of la Cote D’Ivoire whilst their hearts were broken at the death by the Pharaohs of Egypt in 2010. Not even the Golden Age of the Black Stars in recent years who qualified for the FIFA World Cup thrice on the bounce, whilst taking the world by stain could break this long standing duck of annexing the African title.
Having being drawn against Kenya, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone (subsequently disqualified), the Black stars of Ghana began another quest to end their trophy drought which has spanned over three decades.
Pitting their wits against minnows in Ethiopia and a relatively unknown Kenya, the Stars emerged as group winners and booked a spot in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.They thumped Ethiopia twice by an aggregate score of 7 – 0, lost one and won one against Kenya finishing on 9 points with a superior goal aggregate of +8.
The 2019 Black Stars
The post qualification period has offered the technical handlers of the Black stars an opportunity to access an ally of talents who could make the cut for the African tournament. After a week start with his changes in Abu Dhabi, Kwasi Appiah finally named his 23 man squad for the Afcon on June 10. The final 23 include twelve players from the last AFCON and ten AFCON debutants.
Kwadwo Asamoah returns to the fold of the stars as deputy captain after his long absence from the team. Expectations remain sky high as the Black stars prepare to make the journey up north but which players will rise to the occasion in far away Egypt.
The usual suspects with the temperament and experience to carry the team on their shoulders have had a cotter coaster season. Even though their track record in successive tournaments is very impressive, it remains to be seen if their inconsistencies over the just ended season will cone back to hunt the team in the tournament.
Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew in particular have endured torrid times marred by injuries and long spells on the bench even when fit. Asamoah Gyan without admitting they had to train up. Thomas Partey and Kwadwo Asamoah, the most consistent pair in terms of club appearances and national team experience could stand in the gap if their performances in the past season is anything to go by.
At the heart of defence, Nuhu Kassim will look to cement his place in the team and it will take solid performances at this level to secure that. By this, it is expected that he takes the competition by storm.
Another player to fall on to deliver is Mubarak Wakaso. He has a lion heart and will fight all years round to defend his motherland. The Black stars will stand to gain from his aggression and occasional pile drivers throughout the tournament should he curb his poor disciplinary record.
Christian Atsu has over the years grown into his own whilst on national duty and he will look to carry on from his impeccable form that earned him the best players in the previous tournament.
Andy Yiadom, Caleb Ekuban, Kwabena Owusu and Samuel Owusu could seize the opportunity and become possible revelations of the Black stars team but that will largely depend on the amount of playing time they will get.
Another African cup of Nations is upon us, another opportunity for the Black stars of Ghana to conquer the continent and break their duck that has sparred over 37 years.
Addai De-graft Joseph (@DegraftAyala on Twitter)
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