Senegal must fall today

Germany v Ghana: Group G - 2014 FIFA World Cup BrazilThe Black Stars’ quest to end the over 30 years African Cup of Nations (AFCON) drought starts today.

This afternoon at the Estadio de Mongomo in Equatorial Guinea, the Black Stars will open their campaign with a difficult encounter against the Terranga Lions of Senegal in the 2015 AFCON that kicked off on Saturday.

Paired in the same group with South Africa and Algeria, Ghana’s group -C- is considered the most even pool in the competition.

Despite Ghana’s pedigree, Algeria’s exploits at last the World Cup seem to have earned them the favorite tag in the group but they will not have things all their own way given the wealth of competition to be provided by Ghana, Senegal and 1996 champions South Africa.

Ghana, four-time champions would be led by skipper Asamoah Gyan but one person who would want to make a lasting impact in the tournament is coach, Avram Grant.

The Israeli may be new to the African terrain but his experience in the game generally is never in doubt. Although he has little glory as far as national team achievement is concerned, his ability to steer Chelsea FC to the finals of the European Champions League clearly indicates he has something up his sleeves.

Relatively, his time with the Stars is short for which reason the FA gave him a modest assignment of going far.

But although he has kept his cards close to his chest, he understands and appreciates the passion of Ghanaians and is optimistic of guiding the Stars above the expectation of the FA but that would mean starting on a victory note against the Lions.

The Senegalese have constantly remain a thorn in the flesh of the Ghanians despite Ghana winning majority of the matches played between them.

Once again, they will be at their stubborn best. With the likes of Ibrahima Mbaye (Inter), Cheikh Mbengue (Rennes) in defense, Pape Kouli Diop (Levante), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Lille), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Alfred Ndiaye (Real Betis) in midfield, and strikers Papiss Cisse (Newcastle United), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City), Moussa Konate (Sion), Sadio Mane (Southampton), Diafra Sakho (West Ham), Ghana has every cause to be worried.

Equally, Ghana has a blend of experience and inexperience side that is capable to carrying Grant’s agenda at the fiesta.

In defense, Harrison Afful (Esperance, Tunisia), John Boye (Erciyesspor, Turkey), Jonathan Mensah (Evian, France), Awal Mohammed (Maritzburg, South Africa), Baba Rahman (Augsburg, Germany), and the latest sensation, Daniel Amartey, (FC Copenhagen, Denmark) would be expected to be at their very best to face the Senegalese potent force.

They would be supported in midfield by Rabiu Mohammed (Krasnodar, Russia), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese, Italy), Afriyie Acquah (Parma, Italy), Mubarak Wakaso (Celtic, Scotland), Andre Ayew (Olympique Marseille, France) and Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht, Belgium).

Grant would also have striking options from Jordan Ayew (Lorient, France), Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain, UAE) and debutant Kwesi Appiah (Cambridge United, England).

Comparatively, the Senegalese boast of a stronger side in terms of player quality and engagement in Europe but Ghana would likely thrive on the team work that has seen them qualify for three successive World Cups.

The Black Stars struggled at times in Brazil last year and were not entirely convincing in AFCON qualifying, but Grant hopes their recent form in this competition, which has seen them reach at least the semi-finals in the last four editions, will provide a platform for them to go deep once more.

By Andrew Nortey

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