U-23 AFCON Preview: Meteors won't spare Egypt

Author: Bernard Neequaye
A line up of Black Meteors side
A line up of Black Meteors side

Ghana's Under-23 male team, the Black Meteors are hoping to build on where they left off in their opening game at the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations when play hosts, Egypt in the second group game this evening.

Last Friday, the Meteors came from a goal down to draw 1-1 against Cameroun and while Coach Tanko Ibrahim was impressed with the result, he lauded the players for the show of strong character and expects them to put up the same attitude when they face the Young Pharaohs in what is expected to be a difficult game.

Coach  Ibrahim Tanko of the National U-23 team has described today’s clash with  Egypt as a difficult game,  but has promised to unleash a potent Meteors side in a bid to foil the hosts plan of being the first to qualify for the semi-finals of the tournament.

“On the whole I would say they showed character and did not give up when they conceded early in the second half, they piled up the pressure until the got the equalising goal. Against Egypt, we will have to shown more grit if we are to get the results needed to send us to the next round of the competition and closer to our dream of picking a ticket for the 2020 Olympic Games,” Coach Tanko said in an interview.

The campaign in Egypt is Ghana’s first since the Under-23 AFCON began, but importantly it is the stakes that remain the focus of the Meteors.

Ghana made its maiden appearance at the U-23 continental campaign against giants Cameroun with Habib Mohammed netting the equaliser having failed to qualify for the previous two editions in 2011 and 2015 respectively.

Speaking ahead of today’s crunch encounter, coach Tanko called on his charges to replicate the character they showed against Cameroun in subsequent matches in order to make significant impact at the tournament.

“I take this as a good result. We trailed but my players showed character to return to the game. Our next match will be even more difficult because we are facing the hosts, Egypt. But we will do our best to get a positive result,” he said.

The draw with Cameroun earned the Meteors a point which has placed them in third place behind Egypt and Cameroun in that order, and now need wins the rest of the group matches to secure qualification into the knockout stage of the competition.

The likes of skipper Yaw Yeboah, Issah Abass, Simon Zibo, Kingsley Fobi, Edward Sarpong and Evans Mensah among others must rise to the occasion to lift the team to victory against the Egyptians.

Coach Tanko must ensure his side avoids a defeat to their counterparts if they are to stand a chance of making it to the knockout phase of the tournament as well as maintain their hope of picking a slot to next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Ghana’s Evans Mensah, who was adjudged man of the match in the game against Cameroun explained that his teammates were ready to play much better in their subsequent games after a shaky performance in their opener.

“We didn’t play well in the first half but the second was much better. It’s a positive result and we will try to do better in the coming games,” Mensah was quoted by cafonline.com ahead of the game.

Meanwhile, the Egyptians need a win to make it from the group following a lone goal victory over Mali in their opening game and will seek home comfort to beat the Ghanaians.