Nii Odartey Lamptey is a name many Ghanaians remember for different reasons. A brilliant teenager who made headlines in Ghana’s 1991 U-17 World Cup victory, a player who never managed to reach the summit of his potential, and one whose name is a local aphorism for cautious expectations on young players.
Lamptey could have been everything and he understands what near success, which many years later, become a synonym for failure means. In 1992, he said Ghana could have been champions but for a captaincy shortfall. After the suspension of star attacker, Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew, the team’s captaincy responsibility was placed on the shoulder of Tony Baffoe. According to Lamptey, the next best person would have been Anthony Yeboah, one of the best attackers to have emerged from the West African nation.
Reminiscing Ghana’s failure in 1992 despite coming so close is a painful exercise for Ghanaians. It was probably their best generation in the past thirty years. Before that moment, Ghana hadn’t won the AFCON for ten years, and haven’t celebrated a victorious finale for three decades after it. How this has happened beggars belief, as the same Black Stars won four AFCON titles between 1957 and 1982, a period of twenty-five years.
Second place outings in 1992, 2010, and 2015 are the closest the Black Stars have been to winning the title and could rue their fate on each occasion, missing out on fine details of luck and concentration, and having to live with generational scars.
A third-place finish on home soil in 2008 still leaves fans in anger as they came so close, yet so far, yet again. In 2012, Ghana lost in the semifinal to eventual champions Zambia but would feel it was a lost opportunity at banishing the memories of years past. They also lost at the same stage to Burkina Faso a year later as age-long rivals, Nigeria emerged victorious. In 2017, they lost to champions Cameroon and also fell to a defeat in the third-place match against Burkina Faso. For decades now, the stars have had multitudes of scars to touch for motivation but they don’t seem enough for a push.
For the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, Ghana is going with reduced pressure but a balanced expectation. A triumph will be a shock to Africa and an early exit will surprise only very few. Not many believe Ghana have pleasant performances up their sleeves but they remain one of the continent’s most historic teams and can still call on some good players in dire times.
In skipper, Andre Ayew and Arsenal’s Thomas Partey, the team has leaders. The inclusion of experienced midfielder, Mubarak Wakasso also gives the squad a natural reminder of what could have been. Ghana has a good mixture of youth and experience but have very little to keep their fans in bullish spirits.
They head to the AFCON paired alongside favourites Morocco, Gabon and newcomers Comoros, and must fancy their chances of passage to the next round. With good measure of AFCON disappointments in the bag and reduced expectations on their shoulder, Ghana will look to put their past failures behind and do the impossible.
It will take special effects for them to emerge winners but those effects could be as little as team unity and as great as luck, as for forty years, Ghana has missed out on a touch of the extraordinary. Should they have that in Cameroon, and put in a decent shift, victory isn’t out of the cards.
Ghana Squad for AFCON
Goalkeepers: Joseph Wolacott (Swindon Town), Abdul Manaf Nurudeen (Eupen), Richard Attah (Hearts of Oak), Lawrence Ati Zigi (St. Gallen)
Defenders: Andy Yiadom (Reading FC), Philemon Baffuor (Dreams FC), Baba Abdul Rahman (Reading FC), Gideon Mensah (Girondins Bordeaux), Daniel Amartey (Leicester City), Alexander Djiku (Strasbourg FC), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Khalid Abdul Mumin (Vitoria de Guimaraes)
Midfielders: Baba Iddrissu (Real Mallorca), Edmund Addo (Sherif Tiraspol), Thomas Teye Partey (Arsenal FC), Mubarak Wakaso (Shenzhen FC), Mohammed Kudus (Ajax Amsterdam), Daniel Kofi Kyere (St. Pauli), David Abagna (Real Tamale United)
Wingers: Abdul Fatawu Issahaku (Dreams FC), Samuel Owusu (Al-Fayha), Kamal Deen Suleymana (Rennes FC), Dede Ayew (Al Sadd SC), Joseph Paintsil (Genk)
Strikers: Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace), Richmond Boakye Yiadom (Beitar Jerusalem), Maxwell Abbey Quaye (Great Olympics), Benjamin Tetteh (Malatyaspor)
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