Our Coach Charles Akonnor will on Monday, lead his charges into a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifier against South Africa. The game which comes off at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg is the second of six for both teams following last Friday’s opening round of games. The former Ghana captain faced the media on Sunday to answer varied questions ahead of the epic clash. Read on for the full transcript.
On the feeling ahead of the game against South Africa
It is a match that we have taken very, very seriously, when we played Ethiopia, there were certain things we needed to do, we have learnt from those things and I believe that come Monday, we will improve and we are looking to have a good match and the team is looking forward to have the three points.
On being under pressure to play in a particular way
CK: Not necessarily. We were aware of the opponent and what they can do. In that match what we expected was that they will possess the ball. We watched them play against Ivory Coast and in that game they took 70% of the game but lost. So they weren’t a threat, of course the Ghanaian style is to play and possess. But there were things we didn’t do especially in the second half we were not tactically disciplined and so we lost hold of the game and it affected us a little bit but we will change if we have to but not because of what anybody will say. We are focused and we know what we have to do at any given time.
On the absence of Jordan Ayew, Daniel Amartey, Jeffrey Shlupp and other key players
Don’t forget we invited 32 players because we were aware of the situation, so we are prepared. We knew that the England based players might not come here with us because of the COVID-19 situation and so we were prepared and we knew exactly what will happen so it’s not going to be an excuse.
On Ghanaians wanting to see the team play and perform well to make another World Cup
What is important is that we have to be efficient. Against Ethiopia, we didn’t excite you guys but we were efficient and it’s because we won. As we speak now, we are on top of the table and so we are not going to allow influence of outside pressure to disturb us. Like I said, we are focused, we are here, we have seen South Africa against Zimbabwe, we have a strategy and we believe that it will work. We believe that even if they change their style of play we have an antidote to it and we will move out of this place with three points.
On last game in March and changes to Technical team of South Africa since that famous draw
Of course, respect and regards to the new Coach, very experienced. He has done it and we all know his qualities. But we are in a different situation, it’s unfortunate my friend lost his job because the team didn’t qualify for the AFCON. But we are here with a different idea and mentality. When we came here, there were a lot of guys who were not in the team, this time we have an improved squad even though we have lost six key players, we will manage it and definitely, we will give some other guys the chance to play. They look hungry and ready to show it on the field of play.
On psychological advantage over South Africa after earning a draw in March
What I know is that we are now playing the qualifiers for the World Cup. In our first match, we won, we had three points, and they drew in Zimbabwe and are now under pressure. You can see that they need the points badly but we also need it so bad so it’s a battle we don’t have to lose sight of. But if we are able to be clever in the things we have to do, we will carry the day.
On COVID-19 denying teams full squad and other disadvantages
The whole issue has been a problem, not just me but other national team coaches across the World. Today, you have a plan, tomorrow you wake up and a player has COVID-19 and he cannot join the team. Others are not allowed to join the team for the same reason. I don’t know if CAF and FIFA are handling the situation well because one may ask, can’t we play somewhere else if we cannot bring our players here. There are so many questions to answer and its not making us comfortable. It’s so difficult. We come under severe pressure from our Nation, we have to win at all cost yet this COVID-19 issue has become a major setback and I don’t know if CAF and FIFA are handling the situation very well.
On respect for opponents and evolution in football
We played Ethiopia some few days, one will say Ethiopia is not a football Nation but we played them and looked ordinary. Football is evolving now and I think it’s about time people show respect opponents. I said earlier that they went to Ivory Coast in the AFCON qualifier and dominated 70% of the game. What does that tell you? So sometimes when we are talking, we must be careful not to disrespect teams. We respect South Africa; it’s a very tough match tomorrow. It’s going to be a tough match but with all the respect, we also believe in our capacity of playing and believe that when we do the right thing at the right time, we can carry the day.