25 January 2013

Ghana/Mali: Young Black Stars Full of Promise

Photo: Luigi Bennett/Backpagepix
Rising Ghanaian star Christian Atsu scores against Niger.

Port Elizabeth — Positive returns for Ghana in the international arena in recent years have elevated the profile of the Black Stars but there has been a drastic change, in a very short time, to the makeup of their team.

The inexperience was all too evident on Thursday as they needed a penalty to overcome Mali 1-0 in their African Nations Cup group game in Port Elizabeth and take top spot in group B.

But while it might be a young side, they still achieved victory in arguably the toughest game they will play in the group, one against an opponent who beat them to the bronze medal at the 2012 finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

It speaks to the potential of a team devoid of many of the senior figures who have helped Ghana to re-establish themselves as an African footballing superpower.

Most of the influential players from the 2010 World Cup, where Ghana came within one kick of becoming the first African side to reach the semi-finals, have gone, leaving coach Kwesi Appiah with a relatively young squad, full of players of promise but modest experience.

Yet, just as was the case at the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola, where an injury-hit team unexpectedly reached the final, Ghana are showing again that the conveyor belt of talent remains consistent.

Players like Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah are now the driving force with Mubarak Wakaso, Christian Atsu and Albert Adomah emerging as the heart of a potentially forceful new generation.

They were never in any danger against Mali at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, save for the controversial incident in the sixth minute when goalkeeper Fatau Dauda handled outside the area and should have been sent off.

The Ivorian referee erred on the side of caution as Dauda snatched the ball ahead of Mali's captain Seydou Keita. "I don't understand why the referee did not do his responsibility," said Mali coach Patrice Carteron.

But the Mali coach was also honest in his assessment: "We have to admit that Ghana was better than us today but we still have a last game to come.

"I'm sad for the players because we wanted to do better but we still have three points. We have no time to be disappointed now, we must prepare for the next game."

Mali meet the Democratic Republic of Congo in their last match in Durban.

A draw there should be enough to ensure qualification in second place, as long as Ghana beat Niger - as expected - to take top place in the group.

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