After blowing a great chance last Thursday to move to the top of their group,the Black Meteors have a big hurdle to clear tomorrow when they face Paraguay in the second group preliminary game at the Kaftanzoglio stadium, Thessalonki.
Everything pointed to a good start for the Meteors in their obligation to carry on from where Nigeria and Cameroun left off when they won gold for Africa in 1996 and 2000 respectively.It was a responsibility the Meteors appeared capable of discharging on behalf of the continent very early in last Thursday's game against Italy.
From goalkeeping to attack the team was clearly on top of the situation until immediately after recess when their bubble tragically burst.The momentary loss of concentration on two occasions proved the undoing of the Meteors.But that is a tragic mistake they can't repeat against the Paraguayans whose style of play is strikingly similar to that of the south Americans.
Even against less fancied Japan the Meteors can't afford the luxury of being carried away by overconfidence because of early success in a game. Because of the classic manner in which the Meteors scored the two goals against Italy, they were seen as being in pole position to have a firm grip on the group.
There was no doubt at all about how immensely the team had benefited from their training tour of Portugal, during which they defeated glamorous sides Benfica and European champions FC Porto.The level of professionalism exhibited by the team engenders so much assurance and it is hoped a similar classy performance against Paraguay could bring the Meteors back into contention.
Why the Meteors allowed the Azzurinis to claw back into the game after a two-goal lead is the talk among connoisseurs of the game here. The feeling of disappointment is much more profound among African journalists covering the games
Whatever it was that enabled the Italians to come back from the brink and keep the Meteors reeling from intense pressure will have to be identified and dealt with if the Meteors' light is not to go out so early in the games The Italians proved beyond every doubt that they are a side capable of soaking whatever pressure is put on them to turn the scale in their favour.
A great deal of responsibility will devolve on Stephen Appiah to lead his younger colleagues to victory tomorrow. The Meteors will have to play a better game than they did against Italy to be assured of victory.Appiah, Baffour Gyan and Pappoe were in great shape last Thursday, and if they get the needed support from the other players the Meteors could be unquestionable victors this time.