The local Black Stars will begin the defence of the West Africa Football Union (WAFU) Cup tomorrow in Senegal with a crunch tie against The Gambia.
The defending champions who hosted the initial edition left Ghana yesterday for Dakar where the competition with a special format will be played from September 28 to October.
Head Coach of the team, Maxwell Konadu, announced his final squad over the weekend with Manaf Umar and Diawisie Taylor suffering the axe.
The team that travelled yesterday is expected to be joined by players from Asante Kotoko and Ashgold whose players featured for the Africa club competitions.
Konadu’s 21-man squad has three goalkeepers namely Felix Annan, Eric Ofori Antwi and Isaac Hagan.
The defenders, numbering seven is made up of Fatawu Mohammed, Issaka Mohammed, Yussif Ouattara, Moro Ibrahim, Mohammed Alhassan, Patrick Yeboah and Habib Mohammed.
The midfielders include Benjamin Afutu, James Akominko, Latif Anabila, Emmanuel Gyamfi, Augustine Okrah, Appiah McCarthy and Justice Blay and four strikers made up of Prince Opoku Agyemang, Joseph Esso, Richard Arthur and Shafiu Mumuni.
This year’s competition has adopted a different format that will see the 16 participating countries vie for the main trophy and a plate.
According to the organisers, this year’s championship will not have countries categorised into groups.
Rather, they will be separated into a Cup (for winners of first round matches) and Plate (for losers of first round matches) competitions, with each team playing a minimum of two matches.
Winners of the first eight fixtures for the first phase of knockout matches will progress to the Cup phase of the competition while the losers move on to play in the Plate competition.
This format, according to the organisers, is designed to offer fans more country-level, competitive soccer, while giving every team a second chance to win a trophy.
Apart from the participation fee of $6,000 for each country, winner of the Cup competition will take home $100,000 with the winner of the Plate competition taking home $75,000.
Host country, Senegal had a flying start with a 3-1 victory over Guinea Bissau in the opening match on Saturday at the sole venue for the competition, Stade lat-Dior in Thies.
Burkina Faso emerged 4-3 winners on penalty shoot-outs over Mauritania after drawing 1-1 in full time.
Nigeria engaged Togo while Sierra Leone played Liberia in yesterday’s round of matches as of press time.
Mali will engage Niger in the opening match for today to be followed by a clash between Cote d’Ivoire and Cape Verde.
BY ANDREW NORTEY