One of the big names represented at Equatorial Guinea 2015, Ghana once again are one of the favourites to triumph in the Africa Cup of Nations. Since the controversies of the World Cup last year in Brazil there have been many changes but the team remain one of the major forces on the African continent and many will be tuning in to see them pay in the Group of Death alongside Senegal, South Africa and Algeria. Four time AFCoN champions, the Black Stars have been a mainstay of the tournament in recent times but success has been relatively rare, with the last title being won as far back as 1982 in Lybia.
The Black Stars have been through a rebuilding period since the disaster in Brazil last year, although their form on the pitch at the tournament was relatively good. Unluckily losing to USA, holding the eventual winners, Germany to a thrilling draw before things unravelled off the pitch and going down to Portugal in the final group game. The much publicised fall-out before that game overshadowed the teams efforts at the World Cup, stars Sully Muntari and Kevin-Price Boateng having been sent home before kick-off. Then followed leaked stories of players refusing to train until a Government plane flew in cash payments to the players, a dark cloud hung over the side on their return and were widely criticised by the Ghanaian fans and media. Qualifying games on home soil were played in front of near-empty stadiums as fans showed their disgust at the behaviour of the players in Brazil. Inquests followed and new manager Avram Grant was brought in.
Qualification was gained stylishly, losing only the one game away to Uganda in Kampala, the Ayew brothers and Asamoah Gyan again instrumental in the team’s progression. For all the nation’s history in the cup, (until Egypt’s 2006 championship victory, Ghana were the joint top winners of the Cup) and their 3 consecutive World Cup appearances, 2010 proving to be a historic event making the Quarter-Finals before being robbed of a semi-final berth by a certain Mr Suarez’s goal-keeping skills, it must be said that the Black Stars have woefully under-performed in the Cup of Nations. 32 years without a title, that spell has been littered with disappointing Quarter-Final and Semi-Final exits and also two runner-up finishes. Wether Avram Grant is the man to turn this around remains to be seen, as qualification had been secured before his arrival. His job has certainly not been made any easier by the Group the Black Stars have been placed in.
Here I see probably the upset of the tournament occurring. Taking into account many factors, including the disruption in Brazil last year, new management and injuries to the outstanding heart-beat of the team, Kwadwo Asamoah, I see Ghana being the major casualty of the first round group stages. There is always a big name that fails to go through, and looking at the line ups for Group C and D, if the Black Stars do fail, they will not be the only ones. So a disappointing first round exit for the Ghanaians in a very tough group but there will be many players to look out for including the ever-consistent Asamoah Gyan, scorer of goals at 3 World Cups, Christian Atsu and the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan.