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18
Fri, Aug

Stars can’t afford to falter this time

Coach Kwasi Appiah

Coach Kwasi Appiah faces his first major test in his second stint as the Black Stars trainer on Sunday when Ghana host Ethiopia in a tricky Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group F qualifier at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.

Sunday’s assignment opens a fresh chapter for the new Stars technical team, comprising Coach Appiah, Ibrahim Tanko, Maxwell Konadu, Stephen Appiah and Richard Kingson. It also marks the beginning of the journey towards the AFCON 2019 qualification target set by the Ghana Football Association (GFA).

That is why the Stars cannot afford to falter but conquer at all cost to ensure a bright start and also win back the confidence of Ghanaians.

At his unveiling in Accra last month, Coach Appiah was mandated by the GFA to qualify Ghana to the AFCON 2019 finals in Cameroun, as well as win the trophy which has eluded us for the past 35 years. That will be the general expectation of Ghanaians when the new-look Stars take on the Walias of Ethiopia in this all-important match on Sunday.

Ghana finds itself in a dicey group which has Kenya and Sierra Leone as the other contenders, explaining the seriousness with which the FA and the Stars handlers are approaching Sunday’s duel. We believe this is a good opportunity for the new Stars coach to put up a good show to convince his skeptics that he is indeed back for serious business.

Following a four-day non-residential training in Accra, the Stars contingent made a ‘triumphant entry’ into Kumasi on Monday and have been enjoying an overwhelming support from the home fans since. That refreshing spectacle, which is in sharp contrast with the unfortunate incident which occurred at the same venue three years ago, when the team were booed at during a similar AFCON qualifier against Uganda, could be a good omen for Kwasi Appiah and his men this time round.

Perhaps due to the Kwasi Appiah factor as a ‘home boy’, support for the Stars has been impressive so far, as the players seem to be enjoying the same goodwill they used to experience prior to the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup fiasco, and it is the expectation that they capitalise on that same euphoria to win on Sunday.

The Stars gave the fans a sign of what to expect against Ethiopia when a two sets of players hammered local Division One side, Asokwa Deportivo, 6-1 in a warm-up match last Wednesday. The game was regarded as a good exercise for Coach Appiah and his backroom staff to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the team, as well as the battle-readiness of both old and new players in camp.

The Graphic Sports can firmly conclude that Kwasi Appiah might have a headache selecting his first team for Sunday’s game following the keen competition among the players for position.

And with the captain, Asamoah Gyan, back to full fitness, coupled with the good form of Abdul-Majeed Waris, Raphael Dwamena and others, Ghana can be assured of some goal-scoring options in this encounter.

It is significant to note that a home-based goalkeeper will definitely be in post on Sunday with goalkeepers’ trainer Richard Kingson working with Richard Ofori, Felix Annan and Joseph Addo who are all products of the Ghana Premier League.

With everything working for them, we wish to sound a note of caution to the players to avoid complacency since the Ethiopians are not the same minnows we used to beat hands down in the past.
That the Ethiopians are no pushovers was evident when they held current African champions, Cameroun, to a goalless draw away in January last year.

We wish the Stars the best of luck on Sunday and urge Ghanaians to throng the Baba Yara Stadium to rally behind the players to win convincingly.