Keep an eye on Cape Verde, Mozambique: Paintsil to Black Stars ahead of AFCON
A Former Ghana international footballer, John Paintsil, has singled out Cape Verde and Mozambique as the primary contenders challenging the Black Stars' aspirations at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d'Ivoire.
Despite sharing the same group with seven-time African champions, Egypt, Paintsil believes that the underdog status of Cape Verde and Mozambique should be the main focus for Ghana rather than the potential threat posed by the Egyptian giants.
Last week, Ghana was pooled in Group B alongside seven-time African champions Egypt, Cape Verde and Mozambique, with pundits predicting a tough battle for the Black Stars against the Pharoahs when they clash on January 18, 2024.
In his analysis of Ghana's chances, Paintsil advised the national team not to place too much emphasis on Egypt's perceived strength, as they are not currently among the continent's strongest teams.
Paintsil, who represented Ghana in six AFCON tournaments between 2002 and 2013, expressed his optimism regarding Ghana's chances of progressing from the group. He cited Ghana's recent impressive record as an indicator of their superiority over their group rivals, including Egypt, whose form has declined in recent years.
“It’s a very good group and looking at Ghana's form now, the last time they lost a match was during the World Cup which they have kept till now and the Egypt we knew is not the same Egypt we see today so for me Ghana stand a chance of coming out of the group,” he said.
Paintsil, who earned 89 caps for Ghana during his international career spanning from 2001 to 2013, acknowledged the competitiveness of the upcoming tournament, as all the heavyweights of African football have qualified for the 2023 AFCON.
Nevertheless, he remained optimistic about the Black Stars' prospects of winning the continental competition.
''For me, the other two teams -- take Egypt out -- are the most dangerous teams. Cape Verde and Mozambique are the teams that can pose a threat to Ghana because it is very difficult to play against these teams," he said.
Now working as a coach, Paintsil revealed that he had been closely monitoring the performance of the national team players over the past few years and has observed significant collective improvements as well as encouraging individual performances at the club level.
He praised Ghana's current coach, Chris Hughton, for reshaping the team with a new system that has solidified the midfield and incorporated skilled wingers, making the Black Stars a formidable force once again.
"I've watched our team play outside and also in Africa and I can say the players' performance is as high as it is when they play for their clubs. So, for me Egypt is not a threat," said Paintsil who had faced the Egyptians during his international career.
''If you look at the players that he is using the wingers are very strong and they are fast on the ball and they have about four [Mohammed] Kudus in the national team, and all of them are very dangerous," he noted.