Ghana’s bid for a fifth Africa Cup of Nations title begins on Sunday January 14, 2023, when they take on Cape Verde in the second game of Group B at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Cote D’Ivoire.
The Black Stars were humbled at AFCON 2021 hosted by Cameroon, exiting at the group stage, and are keen to better their performance this time around, while their opponents Cape Verde hope to surpass expectations again.
Ghana’s early group-stage exit at the previous Cup of Nations was a low point for the four-time African champions, who were eliminated that quickly for the first time since the 2006 edition.
The West African nation have since gone on to thrive at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and topped their qualifying group for the continental showpiece despite playing out three draws and as many wins in six games.
Chris Hughton’s men were unconvincing and remain so as it remains to be seen if the Black Stars turn it on at AFCON to banish the problematic showing from two years ago in Cameroon.
Mohammed Kudus starred in Qatar, and the West Ham United player is anticipated to carry the can for the four-time winners, who seek to claim another title since last reigning supreme in 1982.
However, Ghana must perform at a higher level to avoid early exits seen in 2019, when they were eliminated at the round of 16 or the previous edition’s group phase departure, when they ended fourth in their Group without claiming a victory.
Cape Verde should fear nothing in Sunday’s fixture, with the Blue Sharks being the type of opponent to make the Black Stars uncomfortable.
Bubista leads the Portuguese-speaking nation to another finals, having managed the side to a round of 16 place at AFCON 2021, advancing as one of the best third-placed sides in the group stage.
That outcome is undoubtedly sterner to accomplish, with the Blue Sharks contending with nations that have secured the title multiple times.
Despite not being perennial participants, Cape Verde have made it out of the group twice (2013 and 2021) in three appearances at the finals, possibly giving Bubista’s men the needed confidence to navigate a tough game.
While a 2#0 loss to Tunisia in their tune-up fixture was far from ideal, the Blue Sharks know their opponents are under more pressure to secure maximum points in Sunday’s game, meaning they can play without fear against the Black Stars.
Thomas Partey’s injury struggle means the Arsenal man is Ghana’s high-profile absence at AFCON 2023.
Kudus was an injury doubt, but the West Ham player should be fit to start on Sunday, with Inaki Williams leading the attack for the Black Stars.
Bournemouth striker Antoine Semenyo, like Kudus, played no part in the goalless non-competitive game with Namibia and may not be rushed back into the starting XI.
Cape Verde had eight different goalscorers in qualifying, and it suggests they are a team who do not rely on one player to deliver the goods, adding to their unpredictability.
The Blue Sharks do not have any reported injuries heading into the encounter.
Ghana possible starting XI:
Ofori; Seidu, Djiku, Salisu, Mensah; Amartey, Baba; J. Ayew, Kudus, Paintsil; Williams
Cape Verde possible starting XI:
Vozinha; Semedo, Borges, Pico, Stopira; Rocha, Costa, Monteiro; Mendes, Rodrigues, Bebe
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