Ghana and Uganda kick off their AFCON 2017 campaign in Gabon Tuesday with both sides predicting a tough game and yet promising victory.
The Group D match kicks off at 16:00 hours while the other group match between Mali and Egypt is 19:00 hours.
Below is what Black Stars Coach, Avram Grant and Captain Asamoah Gyan as well as the Cranes of Uganda Coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojević and Captain Geofrey Massa are quoted by Cafonline.com as saying ahead of the encounter.
Avram Grant (Head Coach, Ghana)
Our preparations went well. We started in Accra for 4 days with the domestic players, then all the squad gathered in the United Arab Emirates. The spirit is good and we’re looking forward to the first game (tomorrow) against Uganda.
Uganda is a tough team that plays very good football. They gave us tough moments in our past two meetings, but that is history now. This is a very tough group. Our task is to show to others that we are a strong team. It is going to be a tough game after all.
Football is about pressure, and you can’t achieve anything without pressure. Pressure is not a negative word. Two years ago, they said we (Ghana) are under pressure and we went all the way, but to lose the final on penalty shootout. Now we want to achieve something. These players want to make their fans happy and proud; that’s why I selected them.
Asamoah Gyan (Captain, Ghana)
A win will bring our confidence back because we had a tough preparation. We worked so hard and we’re ready for the first game. We’re playing against a tough side, a side that we have struggled against lately. It’s not going to be easy [tomorrow] but we will do our best. We are here to win, and tomorrow is the start.
We came very close to the trophy two years ago. This year we have almost the same players with some young ones who joined the team recently, but 95% of the team is the same. We also have got a coach who has worked with us for two years. There are is guarantee, everything can happen in a tournament. We’ve got a strong team but we have to demonstrate it to people on the pitch.
With all due respect to Uganda, but numbers say we’re ahead of them. If they beat us, it will be great news for them; but if we beat them it’s normal. They’re a great team and they improved a lot especially in the last year. We respect them and we’re positive.
Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojević (Head Coach, Uganda)
I feel honored and privileged to be here. We’ve worked very hard for this moment to come. Millions of people dreamt of this to happen and they are waiting with pride.
The last time we played in the Africa Cup of Nations was the 1978 final against Ghana. After 39 years, we are back and our first match is against Ghana again. It is a meaningful destiny. Ghana is a great football nation and we have very good relationships with them; they are like our role models. In the last three encounters they have failed to beat us, but as they say “history will not play tomorrow”.
We are back to the Africa Cup of Nations after 39 years. We have no experience but we are full of confidence. Every match is like a final for us. We respect our opponents but we will work hard and try to do our best. It is a test of how far to go and if we want to be among the best in African football we have to prove that.
Ghana is a team with top class players and they are one of the tournament favorites. Since 2008, they are always in the top four. They were runner-ups two years ago; this proves they are a top team. What I think of them I will share with my players, not to the public.
We will fight for first goal, first point, first win and possible qualification to the next round. The fact that we are the only country from the CECAFA region makes us proud. If we do well, then we have achieved a feat. If not, it’s an experience and a step towards the future. We are building a team and we have a project for Cameroon 2019.
I am proud to coach Uganda. Since I took over, we have won 27 games, drew nine and nine losses. We have established a team identity and we will keep this starting from tomorrow’s game.
Geofrey Massa (Captain, Uganda)
We are not here as tourists, we came here for business. We have a purpose and we will start it tomorrow.
It’s a good feeling to be my team captain after all these years. It’s a motivation to the players and we are all happy and can’t wait for tomorrow. It won’t be easy against Ghana but we know why we are here. We had good results against them recently. Millions of people are waiting for us with happiness and this is our motivation.
We have a great coach who always encourages the players. He’s a blessing to Uganda. We have a lot of young players in the team. Playing against Ghana is tough, but we will be up to the mission.