Hosts look to star

Ghana will have to deal with an expectant local crowd when they face Guinea.

    Michael Essien of Chelsea and Ghana will be at the
    heart of his country's midfield [GALLO/GETTY] 
    Hosts Ghana will look to ride a wave of expectation when they play the opening African Nations Cup match against Guinea in Accra.

    The Black Stars, chasing a record-equalling fifth Nations Cup title, are desperate to make a winning start in Group A against their west African rivals, who were quarter-finalists in 2006 when they play on Sunday.

    "I think if we have three points at the end of the first day, we will be ready for the games that follow. We really need to achieve something in the opening game," said Ghana coach Claude Le Roy.

    But the experienced French coach, in charge of a team at a record sixth Nations Cup tournament, expects a tough assignment.

    "They have an excellent squad," he said of Guinea. "A lot of attacking players. They are very skilful. We are aware that it will be very difficult against them."

    Ghana are counting on the 40,000 crowd at the newly-refurbished stadium to get behind the side.

    But they will have to shift around their midfield after injury ruled out captain Stephen Appiah.

    Winger Sulley Muntari is likely to be brought into the middle, with a first starting berth on the left given to 18-year-old Dede Ayew, the son of former Ghana captain Abedi Pele.

    A key figure for Ghana now is Muntari's fellow central midfielder Michael Essien, who missed out two years ago because of injury.

    Le Roy, whose side will also face Morocco and Namibia in Group A, said he has told his men to relish the experience of the tournament, saying: "Not many players will get this opportunity."

    Guinea, who arrived on Wednesday, have spent the last two weeks training in Spain and beat Sudan 6-0 and 1-0 in two friendly matches in Malaga.

    "It is no easy task to play against the host nation in a tournament like this, but it is also an honour to compete in the opening match," Guinea coach Robert Nouzaret said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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