Ghana face Gabon in a crucial match of Group C at the 2021 AFCON later tonight
- No COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the Black Stars camp so far, meaning all players are available for selection.
- Captain Andre Ayew, who missed training on Wednesday after suffering a head injury against Morocco, and being ill prior to the first game, returned to training on Thursday and might start tonight.
- Striker Richmond Boakye Yiadom might be in contention for a starting spot after joining head coach Milovan Rajevac for the pre-match press conference.
- Ajax starlet, Kudus Mohammed will miss the match as he still hasn’t joined the team in Cameroon yet.
- Despite a subpar performance against Morocco, Thomas Partey remains a key player for the Stars and is expected to start.
- Arsenal striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returns to the squad after sitting out their opening game against Comoros due to a positive COVID-19 test.
- Nice midfielder, Mario Lemina also rejoins the team after testing negative for COVID-19.
If ever there was a must-win match for the Black Stars, this would be it.
It might only be the second group match of AFCON 2021 but the Stars’ future in the competition already hangs in the balance.
Dropping points against Gabon might not officially put a final nail in coffin of Ghana’s AFCON 2021 campaign but it might as well.
The opening day loss to Morocco would have been hard to take for the players and the technical team as they were certainly not outplayed by Africa’s second-ranked team.
In fact, the Black Stars would have considered themselves unfortunate not to have claimed all three points and to have lost the one they at least deserved, because of a late goal.
But Ghanaians don’t care about ifs and buts and the pressure has been ramped up on the head coach, Milovan Rajevac, and a number of players ahead of tonight’s match.
Andre and Jordan Ayew bore the brunt of the criticism from the last game, as the two players expected to carry the weight of Ghana’s attacking intent, both largely failed to threaten the Moroccan backline.
Even Thomas Partey, who is considered the biggest star on the team, did not escape the finger-pointing, largely due to his unwitting role in Morocco’s winner.
Despite the high stakes of today’s match, there’s a feeling of ease around Ghana’s camp. Gabon may not be pushovers but they are certainly not opposition the Black Stars should not be able to beat on a good day, and the team knows it.
The trouble is, the Black Stars haven’t had too many good days in recent months. A win is expected and, perhaps more critically, required tonight for the Black Stars.
Anything other than that and it’s panic stations for yet another AFCON tournament.
Gabon’s opening day win against Comoros was expected but still welcome.
They would have been disappointed not to score more goals but those three points have put them in a strong position ahead of their encounter with Ghana.
The return of both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina to the squad after they sat out the first game is a huge boost for Gabon.
Aubameyang might be out of favour at his club side Arsenal at the moment for disciplinary reasons, but on his day, he remains a world class goal threat, something they were sorely missing against Comoros.
A win would take Gabon to the next round of the competition, and, having been thirs favourites when the groups were announced, it would be a massive achievement for this team.
WHAT THEY SAID
Black Stars head coach Milovan Rajevac:
“We analysed the match [against Morocco]. Maybe Thomas’ performance was not at his [usual] level but he’s a great player and he will prove the critics wrong. I think he will be the best player in this tournament.
“He will definitely be ready. You know he suffered a knock and was hurt and needed stitches. Now he is feeling okay.”
Black Stars striker, Richmond Boakye Yiadom
“The morale in camp is solely to get a win against Gabon. I always believe the downfall of a man is not the end of his life. We have been training very hard and we know what is Infront of us and we know what is expected of us from home by 30 million people.
“We are not just here to participate because it has been 40 years since we last won the trophy, so the agenda in our head is to make sure we make it to the final,” he said.
Gabon Assistant coach, Anicet Yala
“We have 28 players at our disposal, and we will seek for solutions among the group. It’s always good to count on players like Aubameyang. The group will be stronger.
“We will go into this game with the same determination as always. We know it won’t be an easy game, but I believe in the quality of my players and their talent.”
Gabon defender, Johann Obiang
“Only victory matters to us. Our motivation is high and we’re aware that we’ll be up against an African football colossus. We are also happy with the return of our teammate Aubameyang.
“He is an important person for the group and transmits experience to all of us.”
- The Black Stars have won five of their last 11 matches
- They have also lost four and drawn two in that time.
- Ghana have scored 10 goals in their last 11 matches and conceded 9
- The Black Stars have won just one of their last five group stage games at the Africa Cup of Nations (D2 L2)
- Gabon are looking to win consecutive Africa Cup of Nations games for the first time since a run of three in January 2012
- After their 1-0 victory against Comoros, Gabon could keep clean sheets in their opening two matches at a single edition of the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 2010 (W1 D1)
- After scoring a 16th minute winner in his first ever Africa Cup of Nations match against Comoros, Aaron Boupendza is looking to become the third Gabon player to score more than once in a single edition of the competition, after Brice Mackaya in 1996 (2) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (3 in 2012 and 2 in 2017).
Head to head
- This will be the first encounter between Gabon and Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations.
- The Black Stars have won five of their 11 matches in all competitions against Gabon
- Gabon have won three times, with three of the matches ending in draws
- Ghana have scored 14 and conceded 10 against Gabon in the 11 matches they’ve played
- The last time the teams played each other was a friendly in 2011, which Ghana won 2-1
- The last competitive encounter came in a FIFA World Cup Qualifier in June 2008, with the Black Stars winning 2-0.
- Days earlier though, Gabon also won their home leg of the tie 2-0.
Kick-Off: 19:00 GMT (7pm Ghana) (21:00 CAT)
Venue: Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaounde (Cameroon)
Referee: Lahlou Benbraham