Gyan hope Ghana grow into tournament

Posted by Firdose Moonda

In trying to put Ghana's draw in their opening match of the ANC into perspective, Asamoah Gyan made reference to Spain's start at the 2010 World Cup. He recalled how Spain began by losing their first match to Switzerland and then went on to lift the trophy a few weeks later.

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Gyan is still confident Ghana can be crowned kings of the continent but he does not seem to have too many reasons not to be. Even Democratic Republic of Congo coach Claude Le Roy still rates them as the team to beat after his side came back to draw.

The Black Stars' performance has been received coldly in Accra, where thousands of fans shook their heads in disapproval when their side squandered a two-goal advantage but they should not be too despondent. Ghana had the majority of possession for most of the match but not the bulk of aggressive intent. Still, their first half performance is a sign that they could go all the way.

Kwadwo Asamoah can walk away from the match with his head held highest. It is similar to the role he plays at Juventus, although there Kwadwo has three centre-halves behind him. With his national side, the back four are flat and he is simply part of that. Still, he was able to burst into the box to provide the pass for the opening goal and then get himself into position to head the second one home.

Kwadwo is already being hailed as one of the best of his generation because of his ability to adapt to the situation and his changing roles. He could be the difference Ghana are able to put between themselves and other teams.

While Ghana's tactics came out of the game looking solid, it's the DRC who will take more out of coming back and finishing on level terms. One South African media outlet was so impressed with their showing, they even wondered whether they had really been discord in the camp in the lead up to the tournament.

Rumours of Le Roy quitting followed by talk that the team had refused to train all seemed to mean nothing as the team presented themselves as a united, motivated unit, sandwiched in between by their superb striker Tresor Mputu and their eccentric but exceptionally good goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba.

The Congolese team are not the minnows they were being written off as. They contain players with a wealth of experience at club level. Considering that one of their biggest feeder clubs is TP Mazembe, who won two CAF Champions Leagues in the last four years, the players in the DRC team have done the rounds on the continent sufficiently to know what it takes to win in big match situations.

They impressed with the cool heads under pressure. Even Manchester City's Vincent Kompany, whose father is Congolese, took notice and tweeted a message of congratulations to them. DRC will definitely look forward to going up against the still nervous Niger, who defended solidly and had a few breakaway runs against Mali but are still more concerned with not disgracing themselves than anything else.

This is Niger's second successive appearance in the tournament and they seem to have learnt some lessons from their Equatorial Guinea and Gabon exploits. Their coach, Gernot Rohr, said the game plan was to "try and hold out for as long as possible", and they did. Niger are more composed but still lack inventiveness and it's difficult to see how they will finish anywhere besides at the bottom of Group B.

Even Mali do not look like quarter-final contenders yet. They were the first team to record a win in the tournament but made hard work of what was thought to be an easy assignment with no clear cut chances in the first half. In fact, the initial 45 minutes of the match saw no shots on target for either side and it seemed another stalemate was on the cards.

It was only when they made clear their intent and brought on PSG's Momo Sissoko that it seemed Mali were going for the kill. It could not have come in any better fashion. Seydou Keita's reputation is only expanding as the morning papers hailed his strike. "Talismanic", they called the Mali front man. He hit the woodwork first and in a second, similar looking attempt, found the back of the net.

Keita did not use the occasion to campaign for anything but there is no doubt his thoughts are back home. Mali is going through a period of terrible strife and if anyone is going to bring the football world's attention to that, it is Keita. Watch this space.

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