The Black Stars take on Congo in Brazzaville on Sunday and yet all anyone wants to talk about is the friendly next week Tuesday against England. There are too many story lines to speak of when it comes to England. The colonial legacy, World Cup performances, pride to name a few. So it is not a shock that we have divided attention.
In a superstitious world, I would say the Congolese conjured the England friendly in order to distract us. Oh wait, we do live in a part of the world that believes in superstition (See shenanigans before Hearts versus Kotoko game last weekend). Never mind. All this has the potential to derail our march to what we all hope will be a fifth nations cup. We all need to transmit focus to the players for Sunday’s match so I am placing an embargo on this blog. No more England talk until Sunday evening.
The African Cup of Nations qualifying match against Congo reminds me of one of the most exciting moments in my football watching life. Abedi Pele’s winner against Congo in Dakar during the Cup of Nations in 1992. He made one of the best African keepers of that era Samba Brice look foolish. The pony-tailed maestro Abedi dribbles one, takes on another, gets to the touchline to cross? No, he shoots!!! Left footed from an impossible angle!!! A curler around Brice and it’s in. Ghana led with that classy goal and went on to win the match and face Nigeria in the next round.
That image from Senegal ’92 is one of the lasting ones from that tournament and it sticks out in my mind like yesterday. One of the greatest individual goals I have seen scored. If only GTV were up on their game we would probably be seeing replays of that game ahead of this weekend’s crucial match.
This match is important for a few reasons. While the boys played great against Togo in a friendly in Belgium last month, it was a friendly and it was Togo. Our last competitive match against Sudan was a disaster with heavy rainfall at the end of a drab draw enough evidence that it wasn’t meant to be our day. This match presents the first real chance to gauge the team and answer some lingering questions. Have they settled after their World Cup high? How do Goran Stevanovic’s tactics used effectively in the friendly to bang in goals translate to a competitive match? Most of all though it is a chance to put a major dent in the aspirations of one of our main competitors. Not to pull the cart before the horse but… Maximum points in this match as well as the return encounter in June would effectively rob the Congolese of any chance of winning the group and make it a two horse race between Ghana and Sudan.
Congo has three points from two matches and a win for them would vault them past the Black Stars. With a formidable Sudanese team expected to take all three points against Swaziland we would all of a sudden go from first position to a tricky third.
A win would ensure that the doubters of Goran continue to be silenced. It is important that he tastes early success so that no doubts into his leadership creep in. The match itself would give another platform for Goran to assess his players directly as he builds a winning team.
By winning on Sunday the Stars would depart Brazzavile with confidence and head into that friendly I promised not to talk about on a definite high.
Last and not in the least trivial, the match is a chance for Dede Ayew to continue the Ayew domination of the Congolese. Come on my son!!!
Players In Camp
Goalkeepers: Sammy Adjei, Ernest Sowah, Richard Kingston
Defenders: Samuel Inkoom, David Addy, Lee Addy, John Mensah, Jonathan Mensah, Isaac Vorsah, John Paintsil, Daniel Opare
Midfielders: Anthony Annan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Sulley Muntari, Dede Ayew, Bernard Kumordzi, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, Emmanuel Clottey, Opoku Agyemang
Strikers: Prince Tagoe, Dominic Adiyiah, Nathaniel Asamoah, Asamoah Gyan ***
***Gyan is in camp but is ineligible to play because he is suspended for the game.