Christian Atsu was player of the tournament in the previous (2015) African Cup of Nations finals, Ghana cruelly losing out on penalties in the final to Ivory Coast.
This time, the finals in Gabon started out full of promise, with two group wins seeing Ghana qualify before losing to Egypt in the third game dead rubber.
The quarter finals saw a 2-1 victory over Chancel Mbemba and DR Congo, taking Ghana through to a semi-final with Cameroon, Atsu’s opponents missing some seven or eight players who had put club before country and not travelled to the African Cup of Nations.
Despite this, Cameroon beat the Newcastle winger and his Ghanaian teammates 2-0, setting up a final against Egypt on Sunday night (tonight).
Saturday night saw more disappointment for Christian Atsu, as Burkina Faso won the 3rd/4th play-off 1-0, leaving Ghana with a record of winning three games and losing three throughout the tournament.
Christian Atsu’s full record in Gabon:
Ghana 1 Uganda 0 (Atsu played the full 90 minutes)
Ghana 1 Mali 0 (90 minutes)
Ghana 0 Egypt 1 (90 minutes)
Ghana 2 DR Congo (90 minutes)
Ghana 0 Cameroon 2 (90 minutes)
Ghana 0 Burkina Faso 1 (15 minutes)
A busy 18 day schedule has seen Christian Atsu play five full matches and last night he came off the bench for the final 15 minutes, almost setting up a late equaliser with a decent corner that led to one of his teammates firing narrowly wide.
The winger now heads back to Tyneside with a full week to hopefully prepare him for availability against Wolves next Saturday.
Newcastle were better on Saturday against Derby but still lack creativity from the wings much of the time, particularly the left hand side, so interesting to see if Rafa Benitez now elects to use Christian Atsu more than the six Championship starts so far – having elected to use Atsu more as a late sub off the bench.