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Sports

Algeria ready for 'guns-blazing' Ghana after Senegal shock

media Algeria's Faouzi Ghoulam celebrates his goal during their match against South Africa on 19 January, 2015 Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Algeria coach Christian Gourcouff says he expects Ghana to come out all guns blazing for their second Group C match on Friday in Mongomo. The west Africans have to recover from the shock of a defeat at the hands of Senegal

Ghana suffered a shock 2-1 loss in their opening clash against Senegal on Tuesday.

The manner of the defeat – a Moussa Sow goal with virtually the last kick of the game – has left the Ghana camp in a state of lockdown.

Media access to players has been limited and only a few training sessions have been open to the public.

On the eve of the clash, 59-year-old Gourcouff said Ghana would probably emerge from their besieged state eager to prove their billing as pre-tournament favourites.

Click here for our coverage of Africa Cup of Nations 2015

“Of course we have to adapt to the attitude of our adversaries but we can’t speculate on what that will be. One thing’s for sure … after losing to Senegal, they’ll be going for three points.”

Defeat will effectively end Ghana’s interest in the 2015 competition. The resultant backlash in Ghana might cost new coach Avram Grant his post.

The former Chelsea boss was appointed last November with the brief to make sure the Black Stars shone brightly at the 2015 CAN especially after the disastrous off-field spectacle they presented at the 2014 World Cup where there were public rows about the tactics of coach Kwesi Appiah and demeaning squabbles over money for appearing in Brazil.

Losing to Algeria would jeopardise the grand designs of the Ghana Football Association to stabilise the reputation of the national team, rejuvenate the squad and stay competitive.

Eight of the 23 players are aged 23 or under. Twelve of them have less than 10 caps. Callowness is so salient that 25-year-old André Ayew is considered a veteran.

The Marseilles midfielder is contesting his fifth CAN and has already played in a final.

“For sure we were disappointed with the loss to Senegal,” he told RFI. “We want to assure all Ghanaians that we’re going to do everything possible to win the next game. We know it’s a difficult group. We didn’t start too well, Ghanaians are going to be disappointed but I believe that we are going to do something great in the future.”

“We expect our team to do well but it’s always has to be a blend of youth and experience,"
FA boss Kwesi Nyantakyi added. "You can’t only send experienced players or just young players to a tournament. You must send a blend so that you’ll be competing for future honours as well as the present demands. And that’s what we’ve done.”

Ghana’s medical staff were last night still concerned about the fitness of skipper Asamoah Gyan. The 29-year-old Al-Ain striker missed the match against Senegal after contracting malaria. Grant admitted the uncertainty over the fitness of the country’s record goal scorer is a blow.

“He’s a good leader for us and he’s a good striker," he said. "But if he cannot play we will need to find a solution like we did in the first game.”

Ayew revealed Gyan’s illness had torn up nearly three weeks of intricate preparations.

“It’s true he’s an important player for us, he’s our captain,” he admitted. “We’ll always miss an important player in the squad but I think it’s important to say 'Well done' to those who have taken his place. It’s not always easy to replace him. But obviously health is the most important thing and when he’s fit he’ll be back.”

Gourcouff, who led the French side Lorient for 11 years before taking over as Algeria boss, said no special measures would be taken to counter Gyan if he does feature. “He’s a good player and as a manager you never want the other team’s good players to play! Obviously it’s different for the neutrals and obviously for Ghana it is good news when Gyan plays. You have to be on your guard against someone like him.”

Algeria entered the tournament as Africa’s top team in the Fifa rankings. Such status was bestowed on them following their exploits at the World Cup in Brazil where they were only beaten by eventual champions Germany after extra time. Algeria skipper Rafik Halliche says justifying the accolade will either impede or liberate his team mates.

For a good hour of their first match against South Africa it appeared to be the former. Algeria’s fabled slick passing game was decidedly lumpen. Gourcouff blamed the boggy playing surface at the Estadio Mongomo.

He also confessed his players were startled by the swiftness of the South Africans.

“Speed is one of the characteristics of African teams but it was even more so with the South Africans," he commented. "Ghana will have that feature about their game and also experience and maturity. I know André Ayew from his time at Lorient. I know what he can do on the counter-attack. The Algerian side will be ready.”
 

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