Ghana’s Must-Win Showdown Against Mozambique: AFCON Redemption at Stake

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Ghana vs Mozambique

Chris Hughton, the coach of Ghana, acknowledges the crucial nature of their upcoming must-win match against Mozambique on Monday night in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Anything short of victory may see the Black Stars crash out of the tournament after a 2-1 loss to minnows Cape Verde and a 2-2 draw with Egypt in their first two games.

Speaking at a press briefing today in Abidjan, Hughton said his players were aware of what it would take to get a result and would be leaving no stone unturned in their preparations.

“We are aware of the magnitude of this game; we know that this is a game that we have to win,” Hughton said.

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He added: “Our preparation going into the game has been the same as the two previous games, and all we can do is prepare the team to play a very tough match, as all of these games are, and make sure that we put in a level of performance that allows us to win the game.”

The Black Stars of Ghana find themselves at a crossroads, facing a make-or-break battle against Mozambique on Monday night at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium (Ebimpé Olympic Stadium) in Abidjan. A victory is vital to ward off a haunting déjà vu of a second successive group-stage exit at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Haunted by the spectre of their disastrous last AFCON campaign, where they languished at the bottom of their group, Ghana now stands on the precipice after managing just one point from their initial two matches.

A 2-1 defeat to Cape Verde and a 2-2 draw against Egypt, despite holding the lead on two occasions, have left them teetering on the edge, with Mozambique emerging as the last hurdle in their quest for redemption.

Securing a win would propel them to four points, a potentially qualifying position as one of the four best third-placed teams. The 2021 edition witnessed two teams advancing with a mere three points, providing a glimmer of hope for the Black Stars.

While the FIFA rankings favor Ghana (61st) over Mozambique (111th), history issues a cautionary tale. In 2021, needing just a point to advance against Comoros, Ghana shockingly succumbed to a 3-2 defeat, spelling an early exit.

The stakes rise even higher with a looming threat of a first-ever defeat to Mozambique (having secured 6 wins and 2 draws in their previous encounters) and Ghana’s six-match winless streak at the AFCON.

Ghana coach Chris Hughton remains resolute, dismissing the notion of “small teams” in Africa and expressing unwavering confidence in his team’s ability to secure victory. “There are no more small teams in Africa. We are preparing for a tough match against them. The calculations are already made; we need a victory to pursue our dream, and I know we are capable of it,” he said.

Acknowledging the imperative need to address defensive lapses that have cost the team three goals, Hughton and key players, including forward Antoine Semenyo and defender Mohammed Salisu, stress the significance of minimizing individual errors and sustaining full focus throughout the crucial match.

In terms of team news, Ghana continues to enjoy a boost with the return of Mohammed Kudus, whose impactful two-goal performance against Egypt revitalized their attacking prowess. Expected to start alongside forward Semenyo, the team also awaits the late fitness test for midfielder Majeed Ashimeru, while Joseph Paintsil eyes a potential role in place of the struggling Inaki Williams.

For Mozambique, hopefuls Lau King and Elias Pelembe Domingues seek starting positions after leaving an impression in their second-half appearances during the 3-0 loss to Cape Verde. The team’s recent formation shift, featuring star player Atletico Madrid’s Reinildo Mandava in a back three, may persist.

For Mozambique coach Chiquinho Conde, he suggests that the Black Stars may have an advantage with his side playing on Friday a day after Ghana were held by Egypt.

He added that Ghana, given their pedigree, would be facing a lot of pressure despite the quality players they have, including talisman Mohammed Kudus.

“We did not have much time to rest; we have had only 48 hours after our match against Cape Verde, but the Ghana team has had 72 hours for rest. My players are tired both physically and mentally, so we are doing our best to ensure that our players are motivated and ready for the match,” Conde said.

Ghana’s destiny hangs in the balance, yet a positive display against Egypt and the return of Kudus offer a glimmer of hope.

Should they shore up their defense and avoid individual errors, the Black Stars stand a chance of clinching victory in a nerve-wracking encounter against The Mambas, keeping their AFCON dreams alive.

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