Ahead of the start of the Africa Cup of Nations, Asamoah Gyan gives his thoughts on the tournament and assesses Ghana's rivals for victory
Last Updated: 19/01/13 1:37pm
Ghana on Sunday begin their Africa Cup of Nations campaign when they take on The Democratic Republic of the Congo in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
After a more than 30-year wait to win the competition, the Black Stars are, by their own admission, desperate for glory.
The 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists suffered a shock defeat in 2012 when they lost in the semi-finals to Zambia as Asamoah Gyan's missed penalty proved costly.
Now, they will be looking to improve and, here, former Sunderland striker Gyan gives his thoughts on the tournament and Ghana's chances.
If you had to describe the Africa Cup of Nations to someone who has never seen it, what would you say?
The Africa Cup of Nations is like a tradition for us Africans and everybody is desperate to see the games and follow the teams. The fans love football with a real passion back home in Africa. During this tournament, fans support their teams with all their heart, and they do everything for it, which makes this game so special to us Africans.
Do you remember the first time you were watching the Africa Cup of Nations on television as a kid?
Yes, I do remember, it was in 1994. I watched Ghana play but I think they lost against Ivory Coast. The tournament made a huge impact on me as a kid. To see what it meant to the people of Ghana was very inspiring for me.
What did it mean to the people? What did it mean to you?
It has always meant a lot to the Ghanaians. But back then I did not really know much about it. I did not follow the game. Of course I watched it but I did not listen to the news. What I remember is that I watched great players like Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah, who were amazing players at that time and I admired them a lot. Seeing them on television made people happy and it made me happy.
So it brought up a lot of positive emotions?
Yes, it brought a lot of positive emotions. That is why anytime I am on television, like when I play at the Africa Cup of Nations, I try to do it like them to bring back these positive feelings to the fans.
Now that you are the captain and play for the Black Stars, there is a wonderful unity and bond within the Ghana team. How important is this bond that gets you closer to your team-mate to help you perform on the pitch?
Yes, I think we are one of the most united international teams. Every time we are in competition, we forget about the game and we make ourselves happy by playing football. It does not mean we do not concentrate on the game, because every time we go on the field we are concentrated and focused on the match. But we try to take pressure off ourselves, to not think too much about the opponent we are playing against. This is what motivates us to play a match and anytime we go on the field we demonstrate it to the people who are watching us, because the Ghanaian team is simply fun. In my opinion, Ghana is one of the teams that is good, because the unity and the team spirit is there.
After winning the two games that you played during the training camp in Abu Dhabi, is there a higher confidence within the Ghana team than in the beginning of the camp?
Yes, the more matches you win, the higher your confidence level rises. We played against Egypt and we beat them 3-0, which boosted the confidence of the players. The second game we won as well, so I think the commitment of the team is definitely there. Every single player really was really focused. Against Tunisia, we were even 2-0 down but we had the right, strong mentality to come back and win the game. The players kept on fighting and working hard. This team is a group of good fighters. We are very concentrated now and ready for the tournament.
You are working with a new head coach now. James Kwesi Appiah, a former Black Star captain himself, is now coaching the team. How do you find working with him so far?
He is a great man, back home everybody knows him as a gentleman. He has worked with the team for quite a long time and he knows the different qualities of the individual players. When he was appointed as the head coach, it seemed like a logical decision, as he has a great insight into what players can achieve. Also, the players know him and the kind of person he is. He is a man who can take responsibility, which is basically what a coach needs. Since he took over, everyone is happy and we are doing what he wants, in a tactical way, and we try to make sure we abide by what he says.
Who do you consider to be the strongest team at the Africa Cup of Nations?
There are many strong teams, the strongest teams from all over Africa are coming together in South Africa this year. Ivory Coast, Morocco, Zambia and Tunisia are coming. A lot of teams that are participating have proven that they can come out as a winner. It is not going to be an easy tournament. Traditionally, African football is unpredictable, because the outcome is totally different each year.
What do you feel you have to do as a team to win this tournament?
I think we do have high-quality players but what we also need to succeed is the right focus, dedication and hard work. I think if we have these three things, we can really go far, because we have the quality, so we just need to be determined to fight. We have to concentrate and make sure we work hard.
How would an Africa Cup of Nations victory be compared with other highlights in your career?
I think it would change a lot. Maybe not for me personally but in general it would change a lot of things in the careers of many players, because it has been a while since we lifted the cup and everybody in Ghana is expecting us to bring the trophy home. If we manage to win the cup, we are going to make history. It would be a very big thing for us as a team and for Ghana as a country as well. I am praying to God for this to happen.
To hear more from Asamoah Gyan, Ghana and other players and teams who will feature in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations go to www.puma.com/africanfootball