Ghana protest raises temperature ahead of encounter with Angola

2010-01-23 11:41

HOSTS Angola and Ghana meet today in what promises to be an

electric Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal played in front of the hosts’ 50?000

fan base at the November 11 Stadium.

The build-up has been dominated by claims from the Ghana Football

Association (GFA) of “intimidatory” tactics by the Angolan security forces

designed, they say, to destabilise the team.

A Ghana fan and journalist have both been subjected to assaults by

the Angolan police in the capital Luanda this week, but the GFA spokesperson

Randy Abbey insisted his team would not be distracted from Sunday’s

quarterfinal.

“Psychologically this will not affect the team,” Abbey said. “That

is why the leaders of the team have decided to take up this pressure and stress

and allow the players to relax and focus on the match itself.

“If it’s a new form of tactics, then they better think of breaking

our legs as well,” he added.

World Cup qualifiers Ghana made it through to the last eight as

Group B runners-up after a 3-1 loss to Ivory Coast and a 1-0 win over the gutsy

Burkina Faso.

Angola ensured their Nations Cup party continued with an opening

4-4 draw against Mali, a 2-0 win over Malawi and a contentious goalless draw

with Algeria to finish top of Group A.

Ghana, who are seeking to end a 27-year title drought, go into

Sunday’s match buoyed by the return to fitness of Rennes (French team) striker

Asamoah Gyan and midfielder Anthony Annan of Norwegian giants Rosenborg.

Coach Milovan Rajevic has had to rely heavily on his squad’s

younger members after a raft of injuries to key players, the latest being

Chelsea star Michael Essien’s training setback in the run-up to Tuesday’s final

Group B tie against Burkina Faso.

Annan missed both first-round matches while Gyan had to come off

injured against Burkina Faso.

Udinese (Italian Serie A side) midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah is hopeful

Ghana’s injury woes are behind them. “Hopefully, we will have some of our

colleagues back. Michael (Essien) is not returning, but the return of others

will be pivotal.”

Asamoah said he was not concerned at playing Angola in their Luanda

fortress.

“We played them before in a friendly and know much about them. It

will definitely be a difficult match,” Asamoah said. “When we played against

them in the friendly, it was the same atmosphere. It had no effect on our play

and so will it be this time.

“In football, supporters don’t count; it is the pitch that

determines the winner.”

One of Ghana’s absentees is influential captain Stephen Appiah, who

has urged the young Black Stars side to approach every match as though it were

the final itself.

“I would like to congratulate the Black Stars for making the

quarterfinals despite the immense pressure they were under,” Appiah wrote on his

personal website.

“They showed character and determination in beating Burkina Faso

and I am really pleased with their reaction after losing to Ivory Coast. It

takes a lot of mental strength and they did very well.

“From here on, it is going to be difficult because every game is a

final. One strike and you are out, so they need to keep believing in themselves

and fighting to the end in every game.

“I have faith in the team and I am looking forward to watching them

on Sunday.”

Angola coach Manuel Jose is also counting on the return to fitness

of some key personnel, not least midfielder Dede and joint top scorer with three

goals Flavio.

Looking ahead to tomorrow defender Dias Caires commented: “We’re

motivated and ready for Ghana. It’s not going to be easy, Ghana need to be

respected, but we’re training and thinking only about victory.”

The Black Antelopes go into one of the biggest matches in their

history with divine backing.

Gaspar Domingos, bishop of the United Methodist Church of Angola,

told Angolan news agency Angop: “Angola have to win the title and my prayer each

day is that our players find the force, energy and fitness to succeed.

“The players must be in full physical and spiritual condition to

win.”


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