Ghana 2008D-Day is here!
After the completion of the various works by the government and the LOC, it is now the turn of the senior national team, the Black Stars to make the nation proud when the 26th African Cup of Nations Tournament kicks off on Sunday. From all indications, the excitement is building up as tickets for the 44,000-seater Ohene Djan Sports Stadium have been sold out. After the opening ceremony all eyes would be on the Black Stars.
The Stars, tipped to win the trophy following their recent improved form, will face a tricky match against the Syli Nationals of Guinea.
The Black Stars have always found it difficult to win their opening matches in African Cup of Nations competitions. Since the year 2000, they have won only one out of their four opening matches.
In 2000 when Ghana co-hosted with Nigeria, the Black Stars drew their opening game against their Cameroonian counterparts at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium. In 2002, when Mali hosted the tournament, the Black Stars drew their first match against Morocco. The Black Stars beat Ivory Coast in their opening match in 2004 and were beaten by Nigeria in their opening match in the 2006 Nation's Cup.
The Black Stars have played the Guineans on nine occasions since 1970 and have never been beaten by the Guineans. They have drawn three times and won six times.
Compared to the Black Stars who have won the African Cup of Nations on four occasions (1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982) Syli of Guinea have never won the competition.
Guinea's most impressive showing at the competition was in 2004 and 2006 when they got to the quarter-finals.
The Black Stars are likely to field a star studded team including goal keeper Richard Kingston, Hans Adu Sarpei, John Pantsil, John Mensah, Illiasu Alhassan, Michael Essien, Dramani Haminu, Kingston Laryea, Muntari Sulley Ali, Asamoah Gyan and Agogo Manuel.
Though the Guineans have not had an impressive track record in the competition, the 'Syli Nationale' have been one of Africa's best teams in 2007 and with a determined squad could make the semi finals for the first time. Guinea are ranked 30th in the latest FIFA world rankings, evidence of their improving performance while Ghana makes an impressive 8th.
Much of the Guineans hope for going far in the tournament will rest on the form of captain and midfield inspiration Pascal Feindouno, as well as strikers Ismael Bangoura and Fode Mansare.
In defense, Guinea's spine would be strengthened by the presence of French-born Dianbodo Balde.
A victory on Sunday will greatly determine how the Black Stars progress in the tournament and even more importantly whether Ghanaians' interest would be maintained.
At the time of writing yesterday, tickets were very much in high demand. The LOC which is responsible for ticketing and protocols according to an ADM source was not allowing any government pressures on them to issue many protocol tickets. The VVIP lounge would be strictly monitored and even ministers without cabinet rank would not have access to the place.