Accra, Jan 17, GNA - Ghana will be making her 15th appearance at the African Cup of Nations when Egypt 2006 kicks off on January 20. The Black Stars will indeed begin their campaign with a tough assignment against Nigeria on January 23 in Port Said.
The four time African champions who will be making a World Cup debut in Germany next year will be looking for a fifth title to regain their lead as the country, which has won the Cup more than any other in the history of the tournament.
Since her affiliation to both the Confederation of African Football and the Federation of International Football Associations in 1958, the Ghanaian national team has made a significant impact in the continental soccer fiesta.
Ghana joined the competition in 1963, when she was given the hosting rights and the Black Stars became African champions on home soil when they defeated Sudan 3-0 in the finals in Accra.
Skipper Aggrey Fynn's goal and a brace from Wilberforce Mfum ensured the Ghanaians dethroned Ethiopia as African champions and significantly so, when the team was handled by a Ghanaian, Charles Kumi Gyamfi, now a chief in his native Okorasi village in the Eastern Region under the stool name of Nana Kumi Gyamfi I.
Two years later the Black Stars successfully defended the trophy in Tunis with a 3-2 margin over the host. It was a remarkable double for the Ghanaians and particularly for coach C.K Gyamfi who had shuffled his team with a lot of young players.
Frank Odoi scored two and Osei Kofi added the third to give the Ghanaians an extra time victory over Tunisia whose goals were scored by Chetali and Chaibi.
In the next two editions of the championship, Ghana got close to the title but were denied at the final by Zaire, now Congo DR and Sudan respectively.
In the Addis Ababa finals in 1968, Kala scored the only goal of the match to deliver the title to Zaire and deny the Ghanaians a straight third title, while in 1970, El Issad's lone goal gave the cup to Sudan, thus leaving the Ghanaians with two consecutive silver medals. Ghana missed out of the tournament in Yaounde in 1972 when the Black Stars failed to qualify. The Black Stars were also missing from Cairo in 1974 and Addis Ababa in 1976 because the Ghanaians did not qualify.
When General Kutu Acheampong, who was the military ruler at that time decided to host the tournament in 1978, a new look Black Star group was assembled under the tutelage of coach Fred Osam Duodo and the technical directorship of the one and only C.K. Gyamfi of African football.
General Acheampong ensured that the team had good preparations including two trips to Brazil, with the final one lasting over two months.
Though the team had prepared very well, they were all nerves when the competition kicked off and in their first match, the Ghanaians had to fight from behind to beat Zambia 2-1 and again had to come from behind to secure a 1-1 draw with Nigeria at the group stages. The team, however, glittered from the knockout stages as Abdul Razak stunned Tunisia with a classic goal in the semi finals to set the stage for a final meeting with an in-form Uganda, whose Philip Omondi was the tournament's highest goal scorer.
Opoku Afriyie, who is now the Welfare Officer of the Black Stars scored a double to give Ghana her third title before an ecstatic home crowd.
With hopes very high before the next tournament in Nigeria, the Black Stars disappointed Ghanaians when they lost in the first round in Ibadan and returned home before the competition gathered momentum. Ghana became champions again in the next championship in Tripoli, Libya after the West Africans triumphed 7-6 over the host on penalties. The victory had an element of irony, as the trip of the Ghanaians to Libya was facilitated by Libyan president Muammar al Qaddafi after the revolutionary government of Ghana had threatened to boycott the competition due to lack of funds. Goalkeeper Owusu Ansah was the hero of the day when he saved a penalty to deliver victory to Ghana.
In 1982, Ghana went into the championship in Abidjan with a bunch of professional players - the craze had just started - but to the dismay of all, Ghana failed to go beyond the first round. The poor form of the Black Stars manifested in Ghana's inability to qualify for three consecutive editions of the Nations Cup. Ghana was missing in Egypt in 1986, Morocco in 1988 and Algeria in 1990 but bounced back in 1992 in Senegal, recording landmark victories over Nigeria (2-1) and Zambia (1-0) among others, to reach the finals. Having lost Abedi Pele, their inspirational skipper and African Footballer of the year at that time to two yellow cards at the semi final stage, the Black Stars failed to overcome Cote d'Ivoire in the final match, despite creating some decent chances within regulation time.
In a marathon penalty shoot out, Cote d'Ivoire beat Ghana 11-10 as skipper of the day, Tony Baffour squandered his kick to give the advantage to their opponents. Ghana however won her third silver medal in that tournament.
Ghana got eliminated at the quarter final stage in Tunisia 1994 and lost out at the semi final level in South Africa in 1996. The Black Stars were eliminated in the first round in Burkina Faso in 1998. As co-hosts of the 2000 edition of the tournament with Nigeria, the Ghanaians lost at the quarter finals to South Africa and could only reach the same place in Mali in 2002 when a Garba Lawal thunderbolt in the second half made the difference between the Black Stars and the Super Eagles of Nigeria. End of match scores: Ghana 0, Nigeria 1.
When the elites of African football assembled in Tunisia in 2004, mighty Ghana was missing during the roll call and instead, it was Rwanda, which had eliminated the Ghanaians, who made their maiden appearance under Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic.
With Dujkovic now in the saddle for Ghana and having guided the Black Stars through the qualifiers, with emphatic home and away victories over South Africa, expectations in Ghana are high. Maybe the Black Stars would be gunning for a fifth title in Egypt.