In the history of Ghana football, at least recently, Avram Grant’s is a rare case. When he takes charge of Ghana at the Nations Cup in Gabon, he would be the first coach to manage Ghana at back-to-back Nations Cups since the 60s.
But he would be under enormous pressure too. With no win in five and against teams who have managed to get the better of the Black Stars recently, Grant admits his work would be cut out.
TV3’s Michael Oti Adjei caught up with him at the team’s Dubai base.
Q: You have spent quite some time now in Dubai on camping. How has it gone so far?
A: So far it has been very good. The players have showed good spirit, the quality is good. We will be ready for the first game.
I am very happy that the spirit has not changed. We started two years ago really well until things that did not concern football begun to affect us. We don’t want to dwell on the past too much because during this training camp the preparation has been good. It’s not been perfect but the basics have been great
Q: You say you don’t want to dwell on the past but surely the 2015 Nations Cup when your side finished as runners-up would be a major benchmark for you.
A: It’s not a secret. We came here to do something good. It’s ok to say we want to win but it would be unprofessional to think we will just get it. There are a lot of very good teams in this tournament. There are other very good teams. All of them have the same quality I think. There is no team that is miles apart and there is no weak team but we are not looking at other teams; we need to do our job. We have a tough group; all the teams are good and each can cause problems but first we need to qualify and then see. Our target it is still the same. We were in the final the last time and we want to be there again. This time when we get there, it would be a different story.
Q: Ghana has seen a fair bit of group opponents Mali, Egypt and Uganda in recent years. How does that affect your preparations as a coach?
A: It means they know us and we know them better. Today it is no secrete with a lot of apps and the internet that you can do a lot things. Uganda has improved, well organised and all. We won’t create as many chances against them as we did in Tamale but we are ready
Q: Your side has not won a game in the last five attempts. That surely is cause for concern
A: I think it is not fair to put it like this. In the last five games, two were friendly games that we did a lot of testing. We played very well against Russia and South Africa and tried some really good things. If we needed to win, we could do it and didn’t need to do too many substitutions. We all know the circumstances against Rwanda. As a national team there is not a lot of time to experiment so those three games were a good platform. Against Uganda and Egypt we were by far the most dominant side. We lost against Egypt when our goalkeeper didn’t have to make a save. Those games gave me a lot of things to think about especially how to utilise chances; it was a good lesson.
Q: In the past when coaches have named squads for Afcons, there has been a lot of bitterness but in this case the players you dropped stayed behind, trained with the team and looked fairly happy. How have you managed that?
A: I heard those stories when I came here. I don’t accept that you say this is negative and not try to improve it. I have not solved all the problems but we are trying. I was happy for the players that were here and didn’t even make it. They are really good players and shows Ghana has a bright future. It was a tough decision not taking some players along. I told the players I am choosing you based on three qualities: one is quality, that you are ready to give everything and proud to represent your country and the third is the personality which you have seen here.
I told the players no one is here to be just here. In the last tournament, John Boye was not first choice but he became a pillar. Afriyie Acquah was 23rd on my list but he worked hard and took his chance. I said to them when you represent your nation, you need to show that you deserve it. Amartey took his chance really well, other players did it too. I cannot be sure all the time but I hope the players do well.
Q: Are you hoping that on 5th February, you would be managing a side competing for the Nations Cup final?
A: Of course I hope and I believe it will happen. We need to know first that the first game against Uganda is fundamental. We know that we have a tough group but the other teams know we are a tough to beat too. First we need to qualify and decide what we want. We need to win games and show great mentality. In football you need to show over and over and again.
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