The Black Stars of Ghana will be in action on Monday, January 10 as they face Morocco in the opening game at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
The fixture to be played at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo will see two of Africa’s heavyweights in the ongoing competition.
While Ghana are hoping for a fifth AFCON title and their first since 1982, Morocco are also chasing a second continental triumph after last winning it in 1976, when they beat Guinea in the final.
The Atlas Lions had a great qualifying journey to the competition, as they finished the campaign as group leaders in Group E. Morocco were also one of eight sides who finished the qualifying campaign without a loss, dropping just four points in the process.
Making their 23rd appearance at the continental showpiece, the Black Stars will be playing their 100th game in the competition against Morocco.
Ghana last won an AFCON in 1982, winning on penalties against Libya after a 1-1 scoreline after extra time. Since the 1982 triumph, Ghana have made three it to three different finals but have fallen short on each occasion – the latest being the loss to Ivory Coast in 2015.
The west African side secured qualification to the tournament after winning four of their six qualifying games as they finished as group winners in Group C.
A disappointing campaign in the Arab Cup means the Atlas Lions come into Mondays’ game with the task of having a dream start to the 33rd edition of the AFCON.
Ghana also endured a frustrating 3-0 loss to Algeria in their only pre-AFCON friendly game last Wednesday, as they wrapped up preparations for the tournament.
In all competitions, Morocco have won all but one of their last five games while Milovan Rajevac’s side have just three wins in the same period.
Ahead of the fixture, Black Stars skipper, Andre Ayew has said his side is ready for the tournament despite boasting of a relatively inexperienced team.
“In all, they are aware and they are ready as a team. It is not going to be easy – not just for us, but also for the opponents. We are going to the end and we will see what will come out of it,” Ayew said during the press briefing before the game.
Vahid Halilhodzic’s men have been hit with news of positive Covid-19 cases as well as injuries to some key players in the team, including Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri.
Ghana, on the other hand, have everyone available except Mohammed Kudus, whose participation in the tournament is said to be uncertain though Milovan Rajevac is confident of having the player join his squad in Cameroon next week.
Morocco beat Ghana is their last encounter in a friendly game last year but the AFCON presents a whole different environment for both teams.
With a number of key players missing for Morocco, the Black Stars look to have gotten an advantage over their opponents but Morocco also have enough quality in their squad to cause problems for Ghana.
We predict a 1-0 win for Ghana.