Ghana’s Under-23 football side, the Black Meteors, are keen to avoid any slip in their campaign for a ticket to first, the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) , and then the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and are thus, hoping to record a resounding victory against The Panthers of Gabon when they meet at the Accra Sports Stadium on Saturday.
The Meteors have struggled to be at the world stage since 2004 and are desperate to return to that stage but they must first clear the African hurdle and they are determined to do that convincingly.
On Saturday, the Meteors face a tricky game against Gabon’s Panthers in the first leg of the second round of the qualifiers, and they are keen to take care of business so as to ease the pressure that is likely to come in the second leg as the eventual winners will go on to play in the third and final qualifying round against the winners of the Equatorial Guinea versus Algeria encounter .
Assistant Coach, Michael Osei, told the Graphic Sports in an interview they were determined to continue from where they left off against Togo in their preliminary round of the qualifier, and stressed that the ambition of his team was to qualify and nothing else.
“Our target is to qualify and nothing else, we the technical team and the players are eager to qualify. We hope to win scoring more goals so that we may not be under pressure when we travel to play in Gabon,” he noted.
Coach Ibrahim Tanko’s charges advanced to this stage with a 5-2 aggregate score line against neighbours, Togo, last December and must now see off the Gabonese to qualify for the tournament which is to be staged in Egypt in November.
In their bid to have a formidable team for this crucial encounter,Tanko and his technical bench have invited some foreign-based players to complement the local stars who have been in camp since February 27.
“We have invited 11 foreign-based players to join the local players for the game. We are very sure we would have them, because there would be an international break. Interestingly, the players are also eager to come and play since they see it as an opportunity to serve the country.”
The Panthers, who won the maiden edition of the U-23 AFCON hosted by Morocco in 2011, would not want to miss out on the 2019 edition like they did in the 2015 edition. So they would put an immense effort into recording a victory at the expense of the Black Meteors to enhance their qualification.
Osei said though Ghana had never qualified to participate in the U-23 AFCON, Coach Tanko and his lads were ready to do everything possible to qualify for the tournament as that is the only way they can also pick a ticket to the Olympics next year.
“It is sad that as the first team to have won a medal at the Olympics at Barcelona 1992, we have not been regular attendants to that competition since 2004. We want to return to that competition and will therefore, do everything possible to qualify for this tournament.
“And as you know, we have to first qualify for the African tournament so we are focusing only on the match against Gabon, they stand in our way currently. I am happy the boys are also coping with training.”
The likes of Isaac Twum, the captain of the side, enterprising midfielder, Majeed Ashimeru, Kwabena Owusu, the striker who scored a hat-trick against Togo in Kumasi , diminutive midfielder, Yaw Yeboah and host of other quality players would all be available for selection on the match day.
The return leg of the encounter will be played three days after, on Tuesday, March 26, at the Augustin Monédan Stadium in, Libreville.