Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah believes the team’s captaincy issue is behind them, believing they are now well prepared for the Africa Cup of Nations. The Black Stars begin their campaign against Benin on Tuesday, but their build-up to the tournament was marred by Asamoah Gyan’s retirement, a decision he backtracked on, as he was removed as captain.Andre Ayew was instead named skipper, with the returning Gyan given the role of ‘general captain’.
But Appiah insists there is unity within his Ghana team.
“The captaincy is nothing,” he said, appearing alongside Ayew. “The most important thing is to have unity in camp.”I think this is the best camp I have ever witnessed in my six or eight camps with the national team.”
Benin have never been past the group stage of an AFCON tournament, while Ghana are four-time winners, yet Appiah says there will be no complacency from his side.
“Modern football has changed and there is no way you can under-rate any team and every team is pushing,” he said. “But I believe in my players.
“I have full confidence in them and I know they will deliver.”All the teams in our group are strong but the most important thing is preparing well to face them and that’s what we have done.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ghana – Christian Atsu
Newcastle United winger Atsu was the player of the tournament as Ghana reached the final in 2015 and, although he did not find the net at all two years later, he will again be tasked with providing the team’s creative spark in Egypt.
Benin – Steve Mounie
A tough second season in the Premier League saw Mounie and Huddersfield Town relegated, but he remains one of the more recognisable names in the Benin team. Often wasteful at club level, he will have to take any chances that come his way on Tuesday.
Predicted starting XI
Ghana: Richard Ofori – Andy Yiadom, Lumor Agbeyenu, John Boye, Kassim Nuhu, Kwadwo Asamoah, Thomas Partey, Christian Atsu, Thomas Agyepong, Andre Dede Ayew, Jordan Ayew
Benin: Fabien Farnolle, Enangon David Kiki, Olivier Verdon, Khaled Adénon, Moise Adilehou, Seidou Bazare, Mickaël Poté, Seibou Mama, Jordan Adeoti, Cebio Soukou, Steve Mounie.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- This is the first encounter between Ghana and Benin in the Africa Cup of Nations.
- This is Ghana’s 22nd AFCON participation, a tally only bettered by Egypt (24) and Ivory Coast (23).
- Ghana won four of their first seven AFCON tournaments (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982) but have won none of their subsequent 14. They are also the only team to have reached the semi-finals in each of the last six African Cup of Nations.
- Benin have lost 89 per cent of their AFCON games (eight out of nine), the highest losing ratio of any team to have taken part in more than one tournament. In fact, only Mozambique (12) have played more games than Benin (nine) at the AFCON without winning a single one.
- Since 2010, Andre Ayew has played more minutes (1990) and scored more goals (eight) than any other player in the Africa Cup of Nations.