Our head coach Chris Hughton faced the media on Wednesday ahead of the final round of matches in the Africa Cup of Nations Cote D’Ivoire 2023 qualifiers on Thursday. The former Brighton and Hove Albion and Newcastle United manager touched on objectives of the team, withdrawal of Joseph Paintsil and inclusion of Andre Ayew in the squad.
Here is everything he had to say:
On team objectives going into the match
Yes, this is our objective; we are very, very conscious of what this game means. Not only the nation but of course myself, the players and everybody involved, we know what this game means. So our preparation has been for the last two days, often spoken about the difficulty in International football. But it’s the same for Central African Republic team training today and playing tomorrow and it’s the same for us. We will do everything we can to get the result that we want to get. Preparation has been good, as with all International camps, sometimes you miss players through injuries and of course we are missing some through injuries. But it always an opportunity for others, we are playing at home, we have a good record here and it’s a record we want to continue.
On Joseph Painstil
I will give credit to Joseph Painstil and his Club Genk for allowing him to come. He sustained an injury right at the end the last game and had to be taken off after he sustained a foot injury. He came here because he wanted to be here to be assessed and also his club agreed to allow him to come. But we all had in mind that he would probably be returning back to the club. So after the medical team confirmed that he won’t be available for the game, we allowed him to return back to the club. We thank the club for allowing him to travel because certainly in that situation, there are a lot of clubs that wouldn’t allow their player to travel.
On Central African Republic Coach praising Ghana hours before kick off
I think all I can do is to speak on behalf of myself as Head Coach of course the Black Stars is all I can do. What any opposition manager or player has to say about their own team or the game is of course their opinion. My opinion is that there are no easy games in this group – home or away. The level of African Football has improved significantly over the years, which means that there are no easy games so we will have to treat a good opposition with the respect that they deserve. But I will go back to what I said; we are playing at home here in Kumasi in front of our home supporters and we hope they can drive us on to the victory that we want.
On Fatawu Issahaku replacing Joseph Painstil
Yes, that is true, he will join the squad. He has just joined Leicester City which is a wonderful move for him coming from Portugal where he didn’t play so much. Of course he was involved with the U-23’s in Morocco in the summer, played al, three games and I think it’s a good move for him and one that will develop his career. So yes he will join. We are hoping that he will join this evening.
On Joseph Paintsil absence affecting tactical plan
You spoke about Joseph Painstil’s withdrawal from the squad and it’s the same as others, Thomas Partey, Daniel Amartey, even going back to Ashimeru, Benjamin Tetteh has been in and around and yes Joseph Wollacott as well so there are several. So I think as regards one individual, this is football and what you have to do is to adjust if for any potential player that perhaps might have started and of course he is injured, it’s a very good opportunity for somebody else and that is where you have to look at the strength of the squad that you have. I think it’s a good squad that we have. It’s a good squad, it’s a good balance of a squad, good balance of young players and experience and we will have to pull on. We will have to pull on that youthful quality that some of the young players have.
On going into the game knowing that defeat ends the journey to Cote D’Ivoire
I think the question applies to myself and the whole of the team. There isn’t one player that is in the squad that is not very conscious of what tomorrow’s game means. I think we know the Mathematics, we know about winning or drawing the game and the consequences of losing it so that has to be a driving factor. There isn’t a player in the squad that hasn’t played games that may be at the end of the season or at some stage in a semifinal or a final where the game means more. This is the last qualification game and everybody is aware of what this game means and we don’t want this to be a burden, we want that to be something that drives these players on to get the result that we need and we want.
On Andre Ayew, Edmund Addo and Richard Ofori
What I always have to do. I have to look at the balance of the team. I have to look at the injuries before the squad was announced and I have to get the right balance of experience. Is this the right game to bring in players that are not proven and have not been in the squad before? Yes, there can be some part of that and also there has to be a part of having some stability in the squad. So there is nobody that has the right to be in the squad because you have to earn it and that can come in different ways.
For a player like Andre, who is our captain, who is a big influence and respectful player around the squad so for what he can add to the squad and Edmund Addo, for the games that he has played and also for the option that we have in central midfield. We don’t have as many options in offensive midfields as I other positions.
On Jonathan Sowah
I think it’s good to see him in the squad and I think he deserves it. I was fortunate enough to see him in another game on Sunday; he scored two goals and potentially could have scored another two. It has been my responsibility to watch as many games as I can. I can only watch so many because although this our local League, we also have a huge amount of players playing in so I watch as many games as I can which helps me to get an understanding of the levels of the teams and the Leagues and more so about the individuals. Jonathan was one I have to say was brought to my attention first before I had the opportunity to see him so yes he will be in the squad and is very much deservedly so.
Message to fans in Kumasi
We apologize that we can’t allow the fanatical supporters to watch both training sessions. It’s a difficult decision but we had some tactical work to do but we all know in this day of mobile phones and social media it’s impossible to open both sessions to the public. We are always grateful to the fans. I don’t think there is one player that is not exited to get an early feel of the fans. I have to speak about Kumasi because this is where we are playing tomorrow. We need them to come in their numbers because their presence would make the difference.
On missing the progressive passing of Thomas Partey
We are very aware of Thomas’ abilities in that midfield and whether he is playing in a deeper position or whether he plays high up the field, he gives the team the composure and the quality on the ball. But it’s my responsibility to scout as hard as we can and identify very similar type of players. It’s an area that certainly for the ones that have been in the squad we don’t have many options for the one we regard as No 8. But it’s my responsibility to source and find the amount of players that we would need in midfield as Thomas would do.