Ghana embarks on its quest for a fifth Africa Cup of Nations title this Sunday as they face Cape Verde in the second match of Group B at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium.
Following a disappointing exit at AFCON 2021, where they were eliminated in the group stage, the Black Stars are determined to surpass that outcome this time. On the other hand, their opponents aim to exceed expectations once again.
The early group-stage elimination in the previous Cup of Nations marked a low point for Ghana, a four-time African champion, experiencing such an exit for the first time since 2006. Despite this setback, the West African nation performed well in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers in Qatar, topping their group with three draws and three wins in six games.
While Ghana’s form has been unconvincing under Chris Hughton, their performance in AFCON remains uncertain, hoping to erase the memory of their problematic showing in Cameroon two years ago. Mohammed Kudus, who excelled in Qatar, is expected to play a key role for the team, aiming to secure another title, last achieved in 1982.
To avoid the early exits witnessed in 2019 (round of 16 elimination) and the previous edition (group phase departure), Ghana must elevate their performance significantly, steering clear of a repeat of their fourth-place finish in the section without claiming a victory.
Cape Verde has no reason to be apprehensive about the upcoming Sunday fixture, as the Blue Sharks possess the qualities to unsettle the Black Stars if they approach the game strategically. Bubista, guiding the Portuguese-speaking nation once again in the finals, previously steered the team to a commendable round of 16 placement in AFCON 2021, progressing as one of the top third-placed teams in the group stage.
This achievement is notably challenging, given that the Blue Sharks are competing against nations that have clinched the title multiple times. Despite not being consistent contenders, Cape Verde has successfully advanced from the group stage twice (in 2013 and 2021) out of their three appearances in the finals. This track record may instill the necessary confidence in Bubista’s squad to navigate through a challenging draw.