Grant blames Ghana's woes on injuries to key players

Ghana coach Avram Grant conceded that the injuries to skipper Asamoah Gyan and defender Baba Rahman during the group stages on the much criticised pitch at Port-Gentil had undermined their Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

Ghana coach Avram Grant (right) said injuries to key players such as his skipper Asamoah Gyan (left) had derailed Ghana's quest for a fifth Cup of Nations trophy.
Ghana coach Avram Grant (right) said injuries to key players such as his skipper Asamoah Gyan (left) had derailed Ghana's quest for a fifth Cup of Nations trophy. Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Cameroon beat Ghana 2-0 on Thursday night in Franceville to advance to Sunday’s final where they will play Egypt.

Rahman hurt his knee injury during the opening match against Uganda in Port-Gentil on 17 January. He left the tournament and returned to Germany to his club Schalke who have ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Gyan, who has scored 49 goals for Ghana, hurt his adductors during the third Group D match against Egypt. But he remained in Gabon.

The 31-year-old missed the quarter-final victory over Democratic Republic of Congo and was named as a substitute for the semi-final against Cameroon. “Both injuries were due to the pitch at Port-Gentil,” Grant said. “It was difficult to overcome the loss of Rahman and Gyan. The team lost after a very good tournament.”

Ghana had been favourites to progress at the expense of Cameroon to the final in Libreville because the majority of their squad have featured at several Cup of Nations tournaments while 14 of the 23 Cameroon squad had never played in the championships.

Cameroon advanced to the knockout stages as runners-up from Group A with five points following a win over Guinea-Bissau and draws against Gabon and Burkina Faso. In the last eight, they won a penalty shootout against pre-tournament favourites Senegal and in the semi-final against Ghana, after dominating the first half, they repelled Ghana’s pressure in the second half to open the scoring after 72 minutes.

Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui profited from confusion between Ghana goalkeeper Razak Brimah and John Boye to stab home. Christian Bassogog sealed victory with a goal from a counter-attack in second half stoppage time.

Cameroon coach Hugo Broos described his team’s surge to the final as a dream. “I’m happy for the group of players. They’re a good group. If you had said before the tournament that Cameroon would be in the final, people would have laughed at you,” said the 64-year-old Belgian.

On the eve of the semi-final, Ghana's assistant coach, Maxwell Konadu, played down talk of a curse over Ghana who have been unable to add completion to their consistency. Since 2008, they have contested six straight semi-finals and two finals – in 2010 and 2015 – but they have not brandished any silverware. Their last continental crown was hoisted in 1982 when the Cup of Nations was an eight team affair.

Since its expansion to 16 teams in 1996 in South Africa, Cameroon and Egypt have been the most successful nations claiming two and four trophies respectively.

“It’s disappointing,” said Grant. “We wanted so much to be in the final. We dominated the second half and we were the better side but we lost. This is football. I congratulate Cameroon and wish them luck for the final.”

In a macabre twist of fate, Ghana travel on Friday to Port-Gentil – the source of so much of their anguish – to play for third place on Saturday against Burkina Faso. “It’s not exactly the dream of our lives to play this game,” said Grant. “But we will do everything to win it.”

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