The year was 1982, the month March.

Ghana had just won a record fourth Africa Cup of Nations title at the finals in Libya. The same edition had seen Cameroon fail to advance beyond the first round in what was only the Indomitable Lions’ third appearance at the showpiece. Their grandest reward until then — bronze — had come a full decade prior.

Fast-forward to the present: 37 years later, Ghana is still stuck on four, overtaken by Cameroon’s five-trophy haul; only Egypt has won the Afcon more, and no team more vividly illustrates Ghana’s fall from grace. Even worse, Cameroon has directly scuppered the Black Stars’ post-1982 quest to win the Afcon twice: when Ghana hosted the event in 2008, and in 2017 en route to securing the title which took the Lions clear of their west African rivals.

This weekend, in Ismailia, the pair engage again. There is a lot riding on this second Afcon 2019 Group F game, as a win for either side would do a lot for prospects of progress. In their respective first matches, against less illustrious sides, Cameroon flourished and Ghana floundered. Still, predicting a winner based on how they fared in those opening fixtures could be erroneous, for while Ghana struggled in their draw with Benin, Cameroon themselves were only a three-minute second half blitz of brilliance better than Guinea-Bissau.

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Cameroon would be keen to make a statement by beating a major threat to their crown and wrapping up qualification to the next round with a game to spare, but Ghana’s need for three points is greater, and head coach Kwesi Appiah – heavily criticized by countrymen for his decisions regarding personnel, tactics and even choice of clothing during the Benin game – promises his team would deliver in style.

“Wait for us in the next game,” Appiah assures.

“We are going to give Cameroon a really good game come Saturday and I am sure we will end victors.”

One would expect Ghana to feel slightly less optimistic about their chances, given the odds they are up against. However, this is a team with the strongest backs-to-the-wall mentality on these streets. Their worst opening-day results at the Afcon in the last decade have culminated in their best results – finalists in 2010 and 2015 — and perhaps it is that record which inspires Appiah’s hopes.

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His opposite number, Clarence Seedorf, has other ideas, though.

“No one is going to have an easy time against us,” the Dutch legend sounded even before the tournament.

We’ll see about that pretty soon, won’t we?

Tuesday’s bruising bout with Benin leaves Ghana two men — crocked Thomas Agyepong and suspended John Boye — short for at least the next game. Skipper Andre Ayew picked up a knock, too, and “the medical team . . . will advise regarding his availability depending on how he responds to treatment.”

Cameroon have no such concerns, however, and Seedorf should have a full house to pick from.

So, then, revenge or repeat?


Sammie Frimpong — Daily Mail GH

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