HOT Group B favourites Ghana are expected to jet into Port Elizabeth on Thursday next week to begin their final preparations for glory at the African Cup of Nations.
Ghana, who have been tipped as one of the early favourites to win Africa's biggest soccer prize, will arrive just days before their opening match against the DR Congo.
While some of the teams have chosen to set up camp in South Africa ahead of the tournament, the Black Stars have opted to make their final preparations in Abu Dhabi.
The Ghana side have been drawn in Group B with DRC, Niger and Mali, and will be based in Port Elizabeth.
The Black Stars' first game is against DRC at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on January 20, followed by fixtures against Mali four days later and Niger in Port Elizabeth on January 28.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah is under huge pressure to deliver a trophy to the soccer-mad nation who flopped at the last tournament.
Tomorrow, the Black Stars will face Egypt in an international friendly before engaging Tunisia three days later. Both matches will be played in Abu Dhabi.
There was drama in the Ghana camp yesterday when Marseille winger Andre Ayew was excluded from the Black Stars' squad by Appiah for not reporting to a training camp to have an injury assessed.
Appiah said Ayew would not be considered for the final 23-man squad because of uncertainty over the extent of the hamstring injury he sustained with his French club.
Ghana's coach wanted the 23-year-old Ayew, one of the country's best players and an African footballer of the year nominee last year, to report to the pre-tournament camp in United Arab Emirates by Saturday to see Ghana's medical team. He was then given an extended deadline to arrive by Monday.
"Unfortunately, Andre failed to report to camp," Appiah said.
"In line with my vision of taking only fit players for the Africa Cup of Nations, I have decided to work only with the players currently in camp."
Appiah, part of the 1982 Cup-winning team, has already suffered a blow, with striker Yahaya Mohammed forced to withdraw from the 26-strong provisional squad due to a groin injury.
Last month, the Ghana Football Association expressed concern about the state of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University training pitch allocated to them ahead of the tournament. "The local organising committee assured us it will be put in a good shape before we arrive for the tournament," Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi said.
The officials also inspected the Garden Court Hotel and the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium which will be used by the Black Stars.
"We are very happy with the team hotel and the stadium where our group matches will be played."