The Black Stars of Ghana have a tricky duel against the Squirrels of Benin as they begin their quest to end the country’s 37-year-old AFCON drought.
The ‘Year of Return’ that has seen the team’s participation in the tournament become a ‘presidential project’ kicks of today against Benin in the last Group F match for the day.
Unlike previous editions where news around the team centered on budget, bonuses and internal bickering, the Black Stars have enjoyed positive press and will head into the game without concerns of unresolved bonus issues.
They also have enjoyed tremendous support from the state and ahead of today’s match against Benin, the state has reminded them of the huge expectations and confidence imposed in them by Ghanaians.
Vice President Bawumia in a Facebook post urged the team to focus on the bigger picture of quenching a nation's thirst for a trophy.
”I wish the Black Stars of Ghana the best of luck in our opening game against Les Écureuils of Benin this evening. I urge the team to be focused and resilient in our quest to break the 37 years dry spell at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
"As a country, let's rally behind the Black Stars and provide them the necessary support to win the trophy for the fifth (5th) time in our football history. The Ministry of Youth and Sports, in a statement signed by its spokesperson wished the team well and assured them of the support of the nation".
Excerpts of the statement read “The sector Minister is confident the Black Stars, who have over the years been a force to reckon with, judging from their performances in previous editions of the tournament, is very capable of ending the 37- year long wait and annex the AFCON trophy for the 5th time”.
“Government can assure the nation that all logistics have been provided. The team must continue to live in unity and be committed to the task ahead as indicated by the President when he met the players prior to their departure for the tournament. As the President said, “Without teamwork, you cannot succeed so teamwork is absolutely critical. You have to work for each other. Helping each other to win the trophy, that’s the teamwork we are looking at.”
The match is slated for 8:00 local time but reports filtering in from Egypt indicate that Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah will start the game from the bench.
Per the reports this is Ghana's starting XI to face Benin: Richard Ofori- Andy Yiadom, Lumor Agbeyenu, John Boye, Kasim Nuhu- Mubarak Wakaso, Thomas Partey, Thomas Agyepong, Christian Atsu, Andre Ayew-Jordan Ayew.