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Disappointment but relief as well for Christian Atsu

3 weeks ago
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Christian Atsu sounded like a man on a mission last month when he declared: ‘This time we will surely bring the trophy to Ghana.’

The Newcastle winger was talking ahead of the 2019 African Cup of Nations.

The tournament now moved so it doesn’t clash with the major European domestic leagues, it is taking place from 21 June – 19 July and Christian Atsu and Ghana kicked off their campaign on Tuesday night.

Benin took a shock second minute lead, only for goals from Jordan and Andre Ayew to put Ghana in control before half-time.

However, things quickly fell apart after the break when John Boye was sent off for Ghana after a second yellow card, for time wasting, Mickael Pote then scoring his and Benin’s second goal with half an hour still to play.

A nervous end to the game but Ghana managed to hold on for a draw.

Christian Atsu played the full 90 minutes but was poor to average with minimal influence on the match.

A big game up next when they meet Cameroon (29 June) and then Guinea-Bissau (2 July) is the final group game.

Finishing top two guarantees progress and the world rankings point to Ghana (50th) and Cameroon (51st) going through, with Benin ranked 88th and Guinea-Bissau 118th in the world. However, if Ghana lose to Cameroon and Benin beat Guinea-Bissau in the next set of games, it would put Christian Atsu and his teammates under a lot of pressure.

Even if knocked out in the group stages, Christian Atsu won’t take any part in the early pre-season preparations that start for Newcastle on 4 July, with time to rest and recuperate etc, whilst if he is still out there for the tournament conclusion on 19 July he could take very little part in NUFC pre-season.

Ghana won four of the ten African Cup of Nations between 1963 and 1982 but it has then been a barren 37 years without an AFCON triumph.

They have been losing finalists twice since, including in 2015 when losing on penalties to Ivory Coast.

Christian Atsu speaking to GNA Sports – 29 May 2019:

“The trophy is always our target.

“We understand the frustrations that the Black Stars have taken Ghanaians through.

“This time we will surely bring the trophy to Ghana.

“I believe this time we will make Ghanaians happy and we want them to support the team because the players are also frustrated that this generation has not won anything for the country.

“The fans have done enough to deserve a trophy so this African Cup of Nations is for them.”

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