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04.07.2003 Football News

NO RETREAT

By SoccerExpress
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The senior national team, the Black Stars go into action against an unsung Rwanda in crucial African Cup of Nation's decider that promises to make or break the Ghanaians.

Rwanda has never participated in the final stage of the African Cup of Nations, but by dint of hard work they have managed to stay in reckoning for the opportunity to break their non-participation jinx, and it looks like nothing can stop them except the Black Stars of Ghana.

Unfortunately Ghana's story cannot be compared to that of Uganda. Still advertising an array of considerable talent from both home and abroad the Stars have deteriorated into an ordinary side and struggled to beat Rwanda in Accra, lost to Uganda in Kampala, drew against the Ugandans in Kumasi and now two options; to either beat or draw against Rwanda.

The task looks indeed daunting looking at the spectacular display of foolhardiness by Coach Burkhard Ziese plus the absence of most of the primed stars in the set up.

Players like Mark Edusei, Godfred Aduobe, Yakubu Abubakari, Kofi Amponsah and Derek Boateng all failed to respond to the coach's call and did not join the team to Kigali.

The Kigali squad had to be beefed up by a whopping seven players from Kumasi Asante Kotoko, even though the coach had earlier rejected the presence of star striker, Isaac Boakye who has been known to score some crucial goals for Ghana. It took the entreaties of FA Chairman Ben Koufie and some of his colleagues before players like Boakye and Aziz Ansah were put on board.

Burkhard has always sought to have his way, but twelve years after he took Ghana by storm he seems to have lost all the magic that made him metamorphose hitherto unsung local players into top-notch Black Stars materials.

Having been unable to win any competitive match with the national team since he took over many see the game against Rwanda as an insurmountable task.

Against Uganda the Stars side was listless and the coach looked equally clueless refusing to bring on local players who were on his bench. His action solicited huge boos from the hugely partisan Asante Kotoko crowd who thought many of their players might have just done the trick.

Well, at least Kotoko fans now have the opportunity to prove to Burkhard that their players have what it takes to beat the lights out of the ambitious Rwandans who are still excited of their dazzling performance in Kampala that saw them pip the Ugandans by a lone goal. But perhaps the FA should also have invited Kotoko coach, Abdul Karim Razak because Burkhard may end up benching a considerable number of his Kotoko contingent. He can be as stubborn as cowhide. The war-ravaged country has made it clear that it is leaving no stone unturned as it plays host to Ghana in this crucial decider, and Burkhard an his men have a tall order as they trek into hostile territory. The history of the game on the continent is replete with stories of home advantage going beyond a better knowledge of the pitch plus huge support, but with referees aiding the home side to obvious victory.

Skipper Stephen Appiah, Bayern Munich star Samuel Osei Kuffour, Augustine Arhinful and Israel-based John Painstil are the foreign-based stars who will be at Burkhard's disposal with the likely inclusion of Charles Amoah who has had problems with a release from Swiss side, Stum Graz.

Will the addition of Daniel Yeboah, Issah Ahmed, George Owoo, Isaac Boakye, Michael Asante, Aziz Ansah and Joe Hendricks all from Kotoko make a difference for the Stars?

Under fire, Edward Ansah seems to have opted out of the team after stories of his age having dimmed his reflexes came down hard on him. Burkhard has the likes of Goldfields, Kankani, Isaac Amoako and Kotoko's George Owoo to choose from.

It is still a tough call for the Stars who start as clear underdogs in spite of the optimism of a host of Ghanaians who believes that the Miracle of Kigali is indeed on, on Sunday July 6.

The FA in conjunction with the YES Ministry has reportedly arranged a mouth-watering package to entice the Stars to victory on Sunday. Will it be one package too late? Kigali will tell.

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