Ghana v Benin: Appiah's side presents united front before opener

Ghana boss Kwesi Appiah does not believe Ghana's team spirit was hit by the captaincy dispute that saw Asamoah Gyan briefly quit the side.

Former Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan performed a retirement U-turn days before AFCON began.   -  Getty Images

Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah believes the team's captaincy issue is behind it now, believing it is well prepared for the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Black Stars begins its campaign against Benin on Tuesday, but its build-up to the tournament was marred by Asamoah Gyan's retirement, a decision he backtracked on, as he was removed as captain.

Andre Ayew was instead named skipper, with the returning Gyan given the role of 'general captain'.

But Appiah insists there is unity within his Ghana team.

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"The captaincy is nothing," he said, appearing alongside Ayew. "The most important thing is to have unity in camp.

"I think this is the best camp I have ever witnessed in my six or eight camps with the national team."

Benin has never been past the group stage of an AFCON tournament, while Ghana is a four-time winner, yet Appiah says there will be no complacency from his side.

"Modern football has changed and there is no way you can under-rate any team and every team is pushing," he said. "But I believe in my players."

"I have full confidence in them and I know they will deliver."

"All the teams in our group are strong but the most important thing is preparing well to face them and that's what we have done."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ghana - Christian Atsu

Newcastle United winger Atsu was the player of the tournament as Ghana reached the final in 2015 and, although he did not find the net at all two years later, he will again be tasked with providing the team's creative spark in Egypt.

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Benin - Steve Mounie

A tough second season in the Premier League saw Mounie and Huddersfield Town relegated, but he remains one of the more recognisable names in the Benin team. Often wasteful at club level, he will have to take any chances that come his way on Tuesday.
 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This is the first encounter between Ghana and Benin in the Africa Cup of Nations.
- This is Ghana's 22nd AFCON participation, a tally only bettered by Egypt (24) and Ivory Coast (23).
- Ghana won four of its first seven AFCON tournaments (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982) but has won none of its subsequent 14. It is also the only team to have reached the semifinals in each of the last six African Cup of Nations.
- Benin has lost 89 per cent of its AFCON games (eight out of nine), the highest losing ratio of any team to have taken part in more than one tournament. In fact, only Mozambique (12) has played more games than Benin (nine) at the AFCON without winning a single one.
- Since 2010, Andre Ayew has played more minutes (1990) and scored more goals (eight) than any other player in the Africa Cup of Nations.