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Chance for new stars to shine

17 January 2013
George Byron

THE absence of some of their big-name players will give Ghana’s outstanding crop of up-and-coming youngsters a chance to shine on one of world soccer’s biggest stages.

That is the opinion of former Bafana Bafana star Shaun Bartlett who was part of the famous South African team who won the Africa Cup Of Nations trophy in 1996.

All eyes will be on Ghana when they start their quest for glory in the Afcon against DR Congo at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday (5pm).

The Black Stars are hot favourites to top Group B and to qualify for a quarterfinal showdown in Port Elizabeth against the side finishing second in Group A.

The Black Stars, who arrived in South Africa yesterday, opted to sleep over in Johannesburg before flying to Port Elizabeth today to start their pre-tournament training at the NMMU campus.

They are scheduled to land in Port Elizabeth at 11.55am today.

Ghana will be the last of the Group B teams to arrive in Port Elizabeth. Their group opponents, DR Congo, Niger and Mali, have all arrived in the city and are training at the Zwide Stadium, Gelvandale Stadium and Westbourne Oval.

Speaking to MTN Football website ahead of the big kick-off, Bartlett said the absence of some of Ghana’s big names would give the new players a chance

The Black Stars go into the tournament without household names like Kevin-Prince Boateng, Andre Ayew, Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien, but the former Charlton Athletic striker sees this as a chance for the youngsters to shine.

“More and more star players are not even coming to the Afcon, so the event is becoming more and more about discovering rough diamonds,” Bartlett said.

“This could mean that Ghana’s defence could see a John Boye or Isaac Vorsah come off really well and make a big name for themselves.

“Even with Michael Essien not there I think they have enough players who can fill the void.

“I think the experience of Kwadwo Asamoah, having moved to Juventus since the previous Nations Cup, means we could expect more from him in attacking midfield.”

While Bartlett is looking forward to seeing Afcon debutants like Wakasu Mubarak and Christian Atsu in action, he has also challenged experienced players like John Paintsil and Asamoah Gyan to have a big impact on the tournament.

“I just hope that the big-name players come to South Africa and perform here because we have seen recently that the so-called big stars do not always play to their ability.”

There is no doubt that Ghana will bank on striker Asamoah Gyan to rise to the big occasion.

The goals of the former Udinese player ensured the depleted Black Stars went all the way to the final of the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola.

And now Gyan has been made captain after he came out of self-imposed exile following the country’s shock defeat to Zambia from the 2012 tournament in Gabon-Equatorial Guinea at the semifinals stage.

Ghana won the last of four Nations Cup trophies in 1982 and 27-year-old Gyan says he now wishes to end the long wait for more silverware. But he is not underrating Ghana’s first-round opponents Mali, the DRC and Niger.

“It’s not an easy group because any team who have got to this stage cannot be underrated,” he cautioned.

Meanwhile, English Championship side Nottingham Forest have put in a bid to sign Ghana goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey.

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