Ghana has termed their remaining two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers as finals as they seek to seal a place at the biennial tournament in Cameroon next year.
The Black Stars were seen as favourites to lead and advance from Group F but poor results and suspensions have left them third on the group with three points behind leaders Kenya (seven points) and Ethiopia who have four.
But while Kenya and Ethiopia have played four matches each, Ghana has only played two, having had back-to-back games against Sierra Leone in October cancelled following their suspension by FIFA for government interference. The two saw a 5-0 home demolition of Ethiopia before a 1-0 loss to Kenya in Nairobi.
“We had prepared for all matches mentally and this ban has had little effect on our preparations. We are prepared for any outcome on that matter. Whether or not they (Sierra Leone) are allowed back in the competition is not in our minds right now, we are preparing for the confirmed matches and more specifically on the Ethiopia match,” said coach Kwesi Appiah during the team’s training in Nairobi yesterday.
The loss to Kenya has seen Appiah make several changes to his squad in a bid to get their campaign back on track.
“I travelled with just four of the players that did duty against Kenya as I felt the need to have a squad that can finish the work for me in Ethiopia. I chose to give a chance to other players against Kenya but this match is too important for me,” added Appiah who has included 15 players that did not feature against Harambee Stars.
The changes see the return of veteran striker Asamoah Gyan, the Ayew brothers of Andre and Jordan who will team up with a number of other established names such as Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey and Newcastle United’s Christian Atsu in the hunt for three points in Addis Ababa.
Veteran Gyan is also aware of the enormity of the task ahead but remains confident nonetheless. “There is always pressure for me to score which is good pressure but we will play as a team. If the chance comes for me to score then I will but what is most important is a win,” said the long-serving captain.
A win against Ethiopia on Sunday will see Appiah’s charges move to second in the group with six points ahead of their final match against Kenya next March when they will need a draw to advance, assuming Sierra Leone’s suspension is upheld.