Coach Chris Hughton says he expects a challenging game when the Black Stars face their Madagascar counterparts in a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) group qualifier in Antananarivo on Sunday. 

He emphasised that no team in the qualifiers could be underestimated, as each national team possessed quality players who were working hard to improve collective performance.

During a media briefing last Tuesday, the coach acknowledged the unpredictability of their match against Madagascar, considering the home advantage and their strong desire to secure a victory to revive their chance of qualifying for the continental competition.

“There isn’t one opposition that we see and think we are going to win this game easily. Every international team is fighting to do well. Madagascar will be no different. They are playing at home, they will need the results, so we would expect a difficult game, and it will be up to our performance to determine the outcome. We’ll be a team that will be ready, and it will be a tough match,” he said.

Absence of trio

The 64-year-old coach also addressed the absence of three key players—Alexander Djiku, Inaki Williams and Gideon Mensah — giving assurance that their absence would not affect the team’s plans. He emphasised the competitive nature of the squad, stating that all players were determined to secure a starting position and seize the moment. 

“This is an international squad, there is no absolute standard first 11; the 24 players are all pushing to get a start. That’s why we have the squad that we have”.

Meanwhile, Black Stars winger Joseph Paintsil also expressed the team’s readiness to face Madagascar on Sunday, stating that all the players in camp were highly motivated and eager to make Ghana proud. He acknowledged that not all players had a successful season with their respective clubs, but it had not dampened their spirits or determination to fight for victory.

High motivation

“Every player who is invited here is highly motivated for the game against Madagascar. As you can see, we still have the belief, the teamwork, the commitment and everything. Even though they had a little bit of ups and downs in their clubs, that doesn’t really affect them in their national team, and with their mentality, they are really ready for it,” affirmed the Belgium-based player.

Paintsil, who enjoyed a stellar season in the Belgian Jupiler League scoring 14 goals in 30 appearances for K.R.C Genk, emphasised that his primary focus was helping the team to succeed, rather than feeling pressure to score or provide assists. 

“If I score, we thank God, but the most important thing is the team. So, it doesn’t matter who scores or who makes the assist. The most important thing is working together as a team to get the result for Ghanaians”.

Source: graphic online

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