The senior male football team, the Black Stars, have been charged to bring back the love of their teeming fans and reclaim their place as one of Africa’s best team as they begin their campaign for a ticket to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroun.
On Thursday, the Stars host South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in a dicey Group C game at the Cape Coast Stadium and Ghana Football Association (GFA) President, Kurt E.S. Okraku, is expecting the team to give his administration a good start to their tenure.
On assumption of office, Mr Okraku and his Executive have launched a campaign intended to bring back the love for Ghana football, spearheaded by the Stars, and the president says he expects the Stars to give meaning to the #bringback the love campaign and not make it a mere rhetoric.
"They are capable of doing it and we will support them to win back the love. It starts with the game against South Africa in the AFCON qualifier on Thursday. Ghanaians will be there in their numbers to support them and we expect that they will reciprocate that support with a good performance and a good result to set us on the path of picking one of the 23 qualifying slots for the 2021 tournament,” Mr Okraku told the Graphic Sports.
Mr Okraku said he had already met the technical team, headed by Coach Kwasi Appiah, and they had been assured of the fullest support of both the GFA and the government, and expressed belief in the team, captained by Andre Dede Ayew, to deliver.
“We believe in the quality of the team and Thursday’s game against South Africa is a must win. After the poor showing in Egypt, fans are expectant of a good recovery and this is the time to show that. We believe they will work hard to bring back the love,” the GFA president said.
Coach Kwasi Appiah and the 23 men he has named for this qualifiers have an arduous task to turn this campaign from words into action and against South Africa, they will have to draw deeper than they had done in the past to achieve that.
Already, they have been forced to make changes to the squad, calling up Hearts of Oak’s Fatawu Mohammed as replacement for Colombus Crew’s Harrison Afful who withdrew from the squad due to injury. In addition to that, he has called up seven other new players.
With another former Black Stars captain, C.K Akonnor, now by his side as the assistant coach, Appiah is expected to find a solution to particularly, the scoring problem that has bedevilled the Stars in recent times.
It has not been possible to win a fifth AFCON, the Stars have qualified for the last seven AFCONs and they have done so in a convincing manner and it is expected that the story will not change.
Coach Appiah is expected to step up on the accelerator from his team’s rebuilding efforts to delivering the results and performance.
Though the Stars have registered some good wins over the South Africans, the records of their meetings stand in favour of the latter, having won four and drawn in five of the 11 times they have played in competitive clashes.
Akonnor’s presence on the bench has come in handy as he is expected to share his rich experience with the technical team in plotting the fall of the Bafana Bafana on Thursday in front of the Ghanaian fans.
With the likes of Andre Ayew, Kassim Nuhu, Thomas Partey, Jordan Ayew, Joseph Aidoo, Alfred Duncan and Emmanuel Boateng available to play, Coach Appiah must have a strategy to fully utilise them to get the desired results tagged a ‘must win’ by the GFA president.
Victory in this game could boost the confidence of the Black Stars ahead of the second game as Coach Appiah’s side looks to start next year’s qualifier on a bright note.
The South Africans will come prepared, knowing an intimating atmosphere awaits them at the Cape Coast Stadium, fast earning the applause as the ‘favourite’ home ground for the national teams.
Coach Molefi Ntseki, who had earlier declared that they were targeting to win the group, could come with an attacking mentality in order to frustrate Ghana to walk away with the maximum points.
"We are not just playing a team in our group to qualify. We have raised the bar to say we want to win the group," the coach said at a media conference after the match against Mali.
"Winning the group means every game we play is important because we cannot drop points. If you drop points you will be worried more about not winning the group. If we win the group, that will also help us in terms of CAF and FIFA rankings," he said ahead of the game.
He could deploy some of his top attackers, including France-based attacker, Lebo Mothiba, Lebo Phiri and Bongani Zungu as well as other local stars such as Kamohelo Mokotjo, Dean Furman and Thulani Hlatshwayo to cause the havoc.