By Micheal Okuley, a Journalist
At exactly 5:30 pm South African time on Tuesday, April 26, 2022 Ghanaians and Soccer-loving fans across the Continent got glued to their television set to monitor the live draw for the next Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. Yes! The journey to the 2023 Africa cup of nations to be hosted by neighbors Cote d’Ivoire was revealed. The route for the various countries with the desire to reach Ivory Coast was determined by the Confederation of Africa Football, CAF in Johannesburg.
The draw ended and the Black Stars were housed in group E together with Madagascar, Angola, and the Central African Republic for the qualifiers. With my little experience, following the Senior National Team and the exploits of countries on the Continent, this group should be a favorable one for Black Stars to pick one of the qualification slots for the tournament scheduled for next year.
However, the current performance of Ghana against the supposed minnows on the Continent is heart-wrenching and difficult to assimilate. Despite Black Stars’ recent qualification for the Qatar 2022 World Cup following their 1-1 aggregate over Nigeria, the team is yet to win a game in its last six. Out of those games, Ghana lost 3 against and drew with 3 teams. They lost 3nil Algeria in a preparatory game for the AFCON 2021 before losing to Morocco in the opening game in Yaoundé, drew 1-1 to Gabon before embarrassingly lost 2-3 to less fancied side Comoros before exiting the tournament.
With the qualifiers commencing in June, Black Stars host Madagascar before trekking to Central Africa in the opening two games. On paper, the group must not be beyond the catchment of Ghana, but their recent poor outings have given me little hope. It will be so disastrous should the Black Stars miss the tournament in Ivory Coast.
The format of the qualifiers has 4 teams in a group of 12 where the top 2 in each group advance to participate in the continental football festival.
Some are of the view that Ghana should use the qualifiers to adequately prepare for the World Cup to be staged later this year, but, I am of the view that should such a mindset be enshrined in the approach for the qualifiers Ghana would struggle. Let’s also not forget that we can’t just qualify but we must finish on top of the table to be seeded to enjoy the privileges of avoiding the big teams in the group phase of the tournament.
The coaching pendulum has to be fixed for certainty in the Technical Department of the team to drive smoothly. There was a lot of ambiguity around the appointment of a coach after CK Akunnor was sacked. A clash between the hiring of Chris Hughton and the group headed by Otto Addo but both were finally brought on board to stir the affairs of the team for the doubleheader against the Super Eagles. I was fortunate to have watched them, especially in Abuja when the atmosphere was tense and we needed something extra to grab a qualification under the nose of over 60000 fans.
Yes; they did it. And did it in a grand style and the spectacle was really refreshing seeing this group guiding Ghana to Qatar. I am part of the group that says the coaching staff has to be maintained for at least consistency and they have shown that when given the needed support and encouragement they will deliver. The Ghana Football Association in alignment with the Ministry of Youth & Sports must urgently formalize the appointment of these individuals for them to start work since we are a few months from kickstarting our voyage to Ivory Coast. We can afford to delay our readiness to conquer Africa. The last time Ghana could not qualifier for the AFCON was in 2004 and the Black Stars cannot afford to miss this tournament. There will be no excuse for the Black Stars not to be part of the guests for the festival. We need the trophy. Ghanaians need the AFCON glory so the various stakeholders must work to smoothen the road to Abidjan.