Ghana coach Ibrahim Tanko talks up his team’ chances at the Total U-23 Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019. Below are excerpts;
CAFOnline.com: How you fancy the chances of your team?
Ibrahim Tanko: We are in a tougher group (Group A) compared to the other group (Group B). Once we have qualified, it means we are one of the best on the continent, and we have to play against the best in order to reach our goal of picking one of three tickets for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Speaking of Tokyo 2020, Ghana has not been part of the Olympic Games in terms of football since 2004. Is there pressure on you personally as a coach to break that jinx?
There is pressure everywhere, especially with Ghana’s failure to win the Africa Cup of Nations for a long time. The expectations of Ghanaians are high, but that doesn’t put any pressure on the technical team nor the players. Let’s not forget that no one gave us a chance to make it to the U-23 AFCON, especially after what happened against Algeria in the first leg in Accra. Or performance in the return leg won the hearts of many Ghanaians who now believe that we are capable of picking one of three tickets for the Olympics next year.
You have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts, Egypt, Mali and Cameroon. What do you make of your chances against these teams?
They are also good sides and I have watched a couple of their games and monitored some of their friendly matches in the build-up to the competition. The technical team believes we have the men to face any team. It’s a tournament and we will take one match at a time.
What is your target going into this competition?
We have a target, and that is to pick one of three tickets to Tokyo. This is a competition and the trophy is the aim of all eight qualified teams. We are aiming for the ultimate. However, if we fail to do so, the ticket to Tokyo must be secured at all costs. We are still preparing to achieve it and until we realize it, we are leaving no stone unturned. "The expectations of Ghanaians are high, but that doesn’t put any pressure on the technical team nor the players. Let’s not forget that no one gave us a chance to make it to the U-23 AFCON, especially after what happened against Algeria in the first leg in Accra,"Ibrahim Tanko, Ghana U-23 Head Coach
Are you okay with your preparations for the tournament?
Yes! We didn’t play any international matches, but the results chalked in our games against some local sides, give me hope that the team is gradually taking shape. I am of the firm belief that we will go very far in the competition and give Ghanaians some joy by qualifying to Tokyo 2020.
What are your final words?
All we want to say is that Ghanaians should not give up on us. They should keep supporting us no matter what. The players and the technical staff are doing all they can to make sure we make them happy at the competition. All we need at this point is their support and prayers and we promised to do our best for them.
Profile of coach
Date of Birth: 25 July 1977
The former Ghanaian international played most of his Club football in Germany after joining Bundesliga side Dortmund from Ghanaian side King Faisal Babies.
After hanging his boots in 2007, he served as Assistant Coach of his last club Freiburg deputizing for his mentor Volker Finke. He also deputized for Finke at Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds and at German outfit, FC Koln.
In June 2013, he resumed his partnership with former Finke as the former joined the latter's coaching staff in the Cameroon national side from 2013 to 2015.
Tanko was named as the assistant coach to Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah in May 2017, doubling as U-23 coach since mid-2018.