Why Ghana must win their opening match if they have to progress
The Black Stars are preparing to open their account in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.
Coach Kwesi Appiah’s men are set to take on Benin on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 with an eye on ending the country’s almost four-decade trophy drought.
Not since 1982 has Ghana won a major trophy, and there is no doubt that there is pressure on the current crop of players to perform.
But to take a step towards that elusive fifth continental title, they must first defeat Benin on Tuesday evening.
Starting a tournament with a win is always important, especially for a team that wants to go all the way in the competition.
With the AFCON expanded to 24 teams, it has become easier for teams to qualify for the knockout rounds of the tournament.
As it stands, garnering four points from any group would – 9 out of 10 times – be enough to see any side progress from the group stages, since the best third place teams will progress too.
However, it won’t come easy and the Black Stars are aware of this. Not only are they expected to progress out of the Group F, they are also expected to win the group.
Defending champions Cameroon are undoubtedly the team to beat in that group, but Guinea-Bissau will also be no pushovers.
But to increase their chances of progression, the Black Stars have to beat Benin in their opening game. It’s more than a must.
By doing so, they’d be killing two birds with one stone: the team will grow in confidence and they will also enjoy the support of the home fans, which until now has looked disinterested in recent years.
The tournament also presents a last chance for a number of players to prove themselves, including Andre Ayew and Coach Appiah.
Ayew, having been made captain, is reaching the twilight of his career and is also running out of time to make an impact in the Black Stars.
For Appiah, though, he knows very well that failure to win the AFCON could spell the end of his tenure as Black Stars coach.
Meanwhile, there is also Asamoah Gyan, who may be playing in his last tournament for Ghana at the age of 33 and would want to bow out as an AFCON winner.
So, there is plenty of reason to start well in Egypt and the Black Stars will do themselves a whole lot of good by defeating Benin in their opening game.