AFCON 2023: Fellow Ghanaians, calm down
It was at the Estadio de Mongomo. The clock had ticked 90 minutes 54 seconds, and Ghana’s skipper, Asamoah Gyan, was seen wheeling away towards the advertising board in the stadium he would later jump over, with his hands tapping his chest in celebration.
Gyan, who had suffered a malaria attack and was a doubt for this contest, had seen a diagonal pass from Mubarak Wakaso just less than six yards out of Ghana’s box.
Like a hare, he outpaced Carl Medjani, deliciously touched the ball with his left foot to usher it into a suitable position and shoved him off his challenge before unleashing a shot beyond the reach of Räs M’Bolhi.
While M’Bolhi stood palpably disappointed, Gyan’s teammates followed in unison and screamed their lungs out. Thousands in the stadium on their feet, and millions watching on television would cheer as though the players could hear them.
It was the last kick of the game that would change the trajectory and fortunes of this team in the tournament.
On January 19, 2015, a Gyan-less Black Stars conceded a 90+3 goal from Moussa Sow against Senegal which left the camp disappointed and dispirited.
Algeria was arguably the best team in this group that also had South Africa and the commentary of nine years ago prior to the game was one of pessimism, pain, venom, and vitriol towards the players.
But there was something behind Ghana many people lost sight of – history.
History that dates back to 1992. Same history had come to the team’s rescue in Angola 2010, after Ivory Coast thumped the little stars 3-1 in the opening game.
Many Ghanaians took solace in the fact that, this was a young team though the despondency was telling.
Andre Ayew would turn the tide of setback to come back against Burkina Faso, heading home Samuel Inkoom’s inch-perfect cross to change the narrative and usher the team into a path that would see them reach the final of this prestigious event.
Same happened five years later in Equatorial Guinea.
Gyan was the spine of that group. In his absence, nothing appeared to work in the Stars’ favour.
Baby Jet was a nemesis to any defender who came his way, and when Medjani came to stop him, he showed strength, and determination to strike home a goal that would restore hope of not just the players, but Ghanaians and neutrals who adore this team.
The storyline of 2015, when this team braved the odds to recover and reach the final, is not quite different from that of 2024.
Go back to paragraph six and you’ll notice Ghana conceded 93 minutes into the game against Senegal. A goal that almost derailed and killed hopes, and take a look at Cape Verde’s winning goal of 2024, which has fans foaming at the mouth.
Cape Verde sunk Ghana in the 92nd minute, similar to that of 2015, which rightly got everyone emotionally distraught.
At the mixed zone, players lost their bearing, in the post-match press conference, Chris Hughton said: “We are incredibly, hugely disappointed with the result. We came into the game with a game plan. We are hugely, hugely disappointed with our result.”
The disappointment was visible as some journalists tried getting access to the dressing room, and an irate supporter verbally abusing him in the team’s Hotel.
But guess what “…I know, and this group of players also know, how the Ghanaian people see this game, see this tournament and our expectations going into this one.”
This is not Asamoah Gyan’s generation. A group, twice after a hiccup recovered with class reach the final, but it is same Kwame Nkrumah’s Black Stars with history.
History that is about three decades old.
It would interest you to know that the three times Ghana lost matchday one since 1992, the country reached the final twice, 2006 being the exception.
And this Mohammed Kudus’s generation; a generation the Nima boy is their spine just as Asamoah Gyan was many years ago, have a responsibility continuing the tradition.
In his absence, Ghana lost. Maybe, his presence could have changed the narrative, or maybe not.
But on Thursday, against Egypt, serial winners of this continental title, it is not a fight for survival, but also a fight to protect history that has transcended Africa to the world.
A 32-year-old god that has only failed Kwame Nkrumah’s countrymen once on this stage, but has since protected it enviously.
Fellow Ghanaians, calm down. Ghana has won 11 of its second group games since 1992, drawn three, and lost one.
In 19 tournaments, including the FIFA World Cup, the Black Stars has an enviable record of 13 wins, five draws and one defeat on matchday two.
Though is a different challenge, history has a funny way of respecting itself. There is the unwanted history of Ghana’s unsuccessful attempts to lift the AFCON since 1982. It is history Ghana wants to end, and this history of never losing a second group game is equally in danger.
With hopes that Mohammed Kudus returns, these boys might just want to restore pride.
Whatever happens on Thursday against Egypt, history would it be respect or broken.
2006 FIFA World Cup
Italy 2-0 Ghana
Ghana 2-0 Czech Republic
USA 1-2 Ghana
2010 FIFA World Cup
Ghana 1-0 Serbia
Australia 1-1 Ghana
Ghana 0-1 Germany
2014 FIFA World Cup
USA 2-1 Ghana
Ghana 2-2 Germany
Portugal 2-1 Ghana
2022 World Cup
Portugal 3-2 Ghana
Ghana 3-2 South Korea
Uruguay 2-0 Ghana
Ghana 1-0 Egypt
Ghana 1-0 Guinea
Ghana 1-0 Senegal
Ghana 2-0 Cote d’Ivoire
Ghana 2-1 Tunisia
Ghana 2-0 Mozambique
Ghana 2-0 Tunisia
Togo 2-0 Ghana
DR Congo 1-0 Ghana
Ghana 1-1 Cameroon
Ghana 2-0 Togo
Ghana 0-2 Cote d’Ivoire
Morocco 0-0 Ghana
South Africa 0-0 Ghana
Burkina 1-2 Ghana
Nigeria 1-0 Ghana
Ghana 1-0 Senegal
Zimbabwe 2-1 Ghana
Ghana 2-1 Guinea
Ghana 1-0 Namibia
Ghana 2-0 Morocco
Cote d’Ivoire 3-1 Ghana
Ghana 1-0 Burkina Faso
Ghana 1-0 Botswana
Ghana 2-0 Mali
Guinea 1-1 Ghana
Ghana 2-2 DR Congo
Ghana 1-0 Mali
Niger 0-3 Ghana
Ghana 1-2 Senegal
Ghana 1-0 Algeria
South Africa 1-2 Ghana
Ghana 1-0 Uganda
Ghana 1-0 Mali
Egypt 1-0 Ghana
Ghana 2-2 Benin
Cameroon 0-0 Ghana
Ghana 2-0 Guinea Bissau
Morocco 1-0 Ghana
Ghana 1-1 Gabon
Comoros 3-2 Ghana
Ghana 1-2 Cape Verde
Egypt vs. Ghana?
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