On Thursday when Goran Stevanovic faces the bulldog that is the Ghanaian media, one question is bound to dominate: Would Ghana win the 2012 Nations Cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea?
Many of those asking the questions would have an answer in mind too. They would want a definite yes. The sort of answer that plays to the gallery, satisfies the Ghanaian ego and plays into the prevailing notion, wrongly you have to say that nothing will stop Ghana from becoming African champions for a fifth time.
If the last time we met Stevanovic is anything to go by, those who will go there having drawn up headlines expecting that answer will be in for a disappointment. Chances are that the answer will go along the lines of "we will do all we can to win". Smart football people don't make definite statements. Emotional football people make predictions with their heart. That is what we have become.
When coaches have sort to be realistic in the past about the ambitions of their teams in the here, it has been taken to mean they lack. Claude Le Roy suffered that, we battered Ratomir Dujkovic for similar reasons.
Nothing could be more simplistic. Confidence means you know you can do it but you are also aware that it is never a walk in the park. That is how this football sensitive and overly made national team should be approaching the month of January and February.
Can Ghana win? Yes. Can Ghana not win? Another yes. None of that is guaranteed but anyone of those outcomes will be a direct product of the quality of players available and the mindset.
The sort of mindset that says nothing will stop us could create the sort of Manchester United mindset that led to their catastrophic Champions League failure. To underrate the competition will be folly of the highest order.
Because in truth, there is nothing spectacularly about us to warrant that. True in the last few Nations Cup, the trajectory of progress has been very good. Semi finalists, losing finalists. By common sense the only way to go is up. We forget though that the movement of that graph is never upward automatically.
Ask Ivory Coast. In 2006 they were losing finalists, in 2008 they were semi finalists and in 2010 they were quarter finalists. Or Senegal who lost the 2002 final, could not win the 2004 edition when most people expected them to and drifted away afterwards. That graph can spiral downward based on how you draft your own campaign.
You don't get that impression this side of town even though admittedly those who will be plotting that on and off the field have been honest enough to admit it will be a tough job. Take Ivory Coast for instance. We here delight in their failure on the big stage. In two world cups there were supposed to be Africa's best hope and we surpassed them. In the last two Nations Cup Ghana has finished ahead of them. Why a team so talented just can't put it together when it matters would baffle us for long. But when you have the sort of quality they have you are always a threat and in that sense the Elephants are a huge stumbling block to Ghana's hopes.
Didier Drogba is scoring goals, Gervinho may do everything but score for Arsenal but we would just be happy to have a player of his calibre. They can call on Didier Ya Konan and then there is one of the highest goal scorers in the Champions League this season in their side Seydou Doumbia.
Look at Senegal too. There are suspicions of a leaky defence but what a strike force they can call on. Demba Ba alone is a massive asset but added to that is the impressive Moussa Sow from Lille.
Two top class strikers which the likes of Ivory Coast and Senegal can call is is the kind of luxury Ghana cannot afford. It may prove to be the side's biggest undoing in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea too.
Of course in the past it has not been. In Angola 2010 the Black Stars employed the simple one-goal project to such devastating effect. Every time Gyan scored, game was effectively over. It helped that Gyan had arrived from Stade Rennes in fantastic form. He will arrive for the next competition in similar mood: with seven league goals from seven league games for Al Ain. He comes also with an international goal scoring record that is excellent by any measure.
And then there are the others. Prince Tagoe does a lot of running but scores very little. If the Nations Cup places was a popularity contest you get a sense he would have been the first to fall out. Dominic Adiyiah too. The best player at the 2009 World Under-20 championships has struggled so badly. The surprise is just how much that surprises people.
Adiyiah's goal scoring record before his heroics in Egypt was never been one of a prolific goal scorer. He bagged eleven goals in twenty four games with Heart of Lions before he headed for Norway where he played for Fredikstat. In two years between 2008-2010 at the club he scored zero goals. Then at the U-20 African Championships in Rwanda he was chastised often for his struggles in front of goal.
But football forgets quickly. Eight goals enroute to one of the biggest achievements in Ghana's football history does magic to public a vote of confidence. It turned Adiyiah from a striker whose goal scoring record was next to nothing into a goal scoring genius. Until he was found out recently. No official game at AC Milan. A loan spell at Reggina brought one goal in thirteen games. Another loan spell at Partizan Belgrade brought no goal in six games. Now on the books of Karyisaka in the Turkish Second Division, he is yet to score a competitive goal.
It leaves Jordan Ayew a logical choice then. If you play for Marseille with such effectiveness at 20, you deserve your chance. Jordan will get his even though he won’t carry Ghana's goal scoring burden. Emmanuel Baffour may have scored eleven in eleven games but Stevanovic won't know. He was somewhere when all that was happening. In any case there has never been a simple black and white rule that score goals and head to the Nations Cup.
That we struggle for fire power upfront is a major issue. We have found a nice way around it in previous tournaments. The midfielders have always weighed in. Sulley Muntari has a goal in him in every tournament, Agyemang Badu when he picks the right shot can strike from a distance. Dede Ayew has scored nine goals for Marseille this season. He will be confident of adding to his solitary Nations Cup goal against Burkina Faso from two years ago.
If things work well that midfield with a Gyan on form can drive Ghana to glory. But it will be some battle with many countries lining up with players more active and some in superior form at the minute.
When we ask Stevanoic whether Ghana can win and he says the team will do all in their power to without giving the populist view of "the trophy is definitely coming to Ghana" understand why. Don't get emotional about it.
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