The 26th African Nations Cup is ready to get underway. Hosts Ghana are under intense pressure to perform in front of their own fans, after bowing out in the quarter-finals eight years ago. (Report: F. Picard/ B.Harris)
In Claude Le Roy Ghana have a coach who comes with an impressive African Nations Cup record with the 2008 edition starting here on Sunday the experienced Frenchman's sixth Cup.
The 59-year-old guided Cameroon to the title 20 years ago and as well as the Indomitable Lions he has managed Senegal and two years ago the Democratic Republic of Congo.
With his Black Stars' squad peppered with stars from Europe's major clubs Le Roy and his men are out to fulfil a nation's dream, starting with three points against Guinea in the opening match.
"We're favourites because we're hosting the competition. A lot of teams are here with a huge potential and that's why for us it'll be a big help to get the fans behind us.
"But sometimes it's up to the players to get the supporters backing them."
As coaches go Le Roy is an example of the laidback variety, and he dismissed the notion that his team would suffer stage fright at the prospect of living with their favourites' tag.
"We're not afraid, we're happy, no nerves - it's only a game."
Le Roy was flanked at the eve of match press conference at the team's hotel in Accra by Michael Essien, the Chelsea midfielder who has become even more central to the team in the absence of injured captain Stephen Appiah.
Essien said he was revelling in being back home.
"It's good to be back in Ghana, I feel really proud to be wearing my country's shirt. The reception when we all arrived at the airport was fantastic."
For Le Roy, under whom Ghana have lost only two of their 11 international friendly matches, Appiah's absence means he's had too tinker with his game plan.
"Sure with Stephen out it means I as coach have to find a new balance. But I'm fortunate, I have a lot of players who can bring something to the national team.
"I have a lot of possibilities."
Local predictions for Sunday's opener suggest Ghana are going to run away with it, prompting Le Roy to attempt to tone down expectations.
"Talk of us winning 3-0 is disrespectful - what we want are the three points.
"Guinea are a skilful football team. They've got some of the best players in the French league. It's a well balanced side and we know it will be very complicated.
"They have players who can create problems, like Pascal Feindouno, but it's important we get a win on the table."
Date created : 2008-01-19