The Black Stars of Ghana would embark on a rescue mission today when they face the Panthers of Gabon in a second Group C cracker in the ongoing AFCON championship.
The 7pm (Ghana time) slated game will offer the Stars the chance to put their campaign back on track after losing their opener to Morocco on Monday.
Until the Morocco debacle, a few loyal fans, despite the gloom over a vow to halt the competition’s drought, had belief in the Stars ability to stake a claim for the competition’s ultimate.
However, the defeat to Morocco and the poor performance from the team have forced Ghanaians to lower their expectation for the team.
This becomes the main reason why Milovan Rajevac and his charges must approach today’s game as if their very lives depends on it.
Failure to wrestle the maximum points would not just make the adventure extremely difficult but jeopardise the entire campaign.
In this regard, the clash against the Gabonese become a must-win encounter and that to redeem the image and ego that was dented by the Atlas Lions of Morocco.
Gladly, every member of the team woke up from that slumber of a performance and are facing the reality of snatching victory from the jaws of the hungry Panthers team, buoyed by the return of their inspirational leader and captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng.
The Arsenal striker missed their opener against Comoros which they won 1-0 after contracting Coronavirus.
Undoubtedly, his return to the fold would boost the team’s psyche against the Ghana team they have faced 11 times and won only on three occasions; drawing three and losing five.
Without Aubamayeng, the Panthers defeated Comoros on Monday with Aaron Boupenza scoring the only goal of the game.
And his expected return, together with Mario Lemina is expected to give the Gabonese options in attack and midfield.
Unfortunately, a similar story cannot be told of Ghana as the technical and medical teams sweat on the fitness of the team’s captain, Andre Ayew who sustained a gush on the head in the game against Morocco.
He missed Wednesday’s training but sources close to the team have sounded positive about his chances of playing today.
But the issue about Ghana may be beyond who plays and who does not following the lackluster performance exhibited by the team, especially the key players.
On a day when the Stars failed to shine, top and senior players like Thomas Partey, Andre and Jordan Ayew, Kamaldeen Sulemana and Andy Yiadom proved a bundle of nerves for fans as they struggled throughout.
Sadly, their substitution came late into the game after Ghana had conceded a late goal with not much time to make an impact.
That left a concerns on the technical team’s ability to steer the Black Stars to their expected destination.
In plotting the fall of the Gabonese who would be chasing an early qualification, having bagged three points already, Coach Rajevac would have to map up the right strategy and deploy personnel capable of carrying his instruction to the latter.
Defensively, it appears the workload fell on the central defensive pairing of Daniel Amartey and Alexander Djiku as the Moroccans pressed the lateral full backs, Yiadom and Baba Rahman.
They contributed very little in going forward while the midfielders and attackers struggled to keep their composure upfront.
That brings to the fore the enormity of the task that faces Milo and his men.
But the Starshave the ability to change their fortunes when the odds are against them.
From the last two games of the Stars – the friendly against Algeria and the group opener against Morocco –Milo must accept the reality that the team’s attack is blunt and must give the new strikers including Maxwell Abbey Quaye a chance to bang in the goals.
Others like Partey must also be fully focused and lift their games to meet the standard required if indeed the Stars have an image to redeem.
BY ANDREW NORTEY