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Africa Cup of Nations

Ghana can thrive on pressure at Africa Cup of Nations, says Grant

Port-Gentil (Gabon) (AFP) – It is 35 years since Ghana won the Africa Cup of Nations but coach Avram Grant is looking to use the pressure to end that long drought as a positive.

“I don’t think you can achieve anything without pressure. We like to use pressure as a negative word but I think it’s good,” said Grant on Monday, on the eve of the Black Stars’ opening match at this year’s tournament against Uganda.

Grant is still in charge after leading Ghana to the final in Equatorial Guinea two years ago, when they lost in a penalty shoot-out to the Ivory Coast. 

“Last time we came very close. Now we want to achieve something. I know the players better now and they can achieve a lot of things together.”

Ghana will also come up against record seven-time winners Egypt and Mali in Group D in Port-Gentil, home of Gabon’s oil industry.

Grant has brought plenty of young players with him to Gabon but there is still experience in the ranks and almost all the team that started the 2015 final remains.

Ghana have been no strangers to squad disputes in the past — including a spectacular bonuses row at the 2014 World Cup — but at least they have not been hit by the sort of mass withdrawals that rocked Cameroon ahead of this competition.

“It is a good group of people, with quality, with passion to serve the country. That is why I choose them,” said the former Chelsea manager Grant, 61, of his current assignment.

“There are players who, even with the quality, they don’t want to serve their country and make other people happy.

“But this is the main thing with national teams. You have a privilege to serve your team and make a lot of people happy.”

The old head in the Ghana team is captain Asamoah Gyan, the jovial 31-year-old preparing for his sixth Cup of Nations.

Gyan skippered the side that was held 0-0 at home by Uganda in World Cup qualifying in October so he knows not to underestimate them.

“No disrespect to the Uganda team, but everybody knows statistically we are ahead of them,” said Gyan. 

“If they beat Ghana it’s big news for them. If we beat them, people might say it’s a normal thing.

“But I want to tell people: Uganda is a great team. They are one of the best teams in Africa right now.”

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