Same old, same old.
For Ghana, it almost always seems to come down to that one kick (or two) — too wide, too high, too heavy, too tame, too often: Dakar, 1992; Johannesburg, 2010; Nelspruit, 2013; Bata, 2015. And now Ismailia, 2019.
Just how hard could it be?
I mean, we live in an era when even England has learnt to get shootouts right — twice in as many years. Ghana, though, continues to find the task as challenging as ever, and the pangs never seem to go away. They would one day, hopefully; just not tonight. Tonight is about blood, sweat and tears. About leaving it all out there and VAR not kicking in a round earlier. And, of course, about Ghana’s wait for a fifth Afcon crown being extended by at least another two years.
If it is any consolation — no, it isn’t — the margin between triumph and tribulation proved fine. Again. Then there is the barely comforting knowledge that, with Egypt and Cameroon both exiting the competition at the same stage, Ghana falls no farther behind in the all-time Afcon winners’ charts (although the likes of Nigeria and Ivory Coast are keeping up the chase).
The Black Stars failed to deliver once more — failing earlier than usual, in fact — but on the evidence of what transpired on Monday night in north-eastern Egypt, it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort and heart. Feel free if you really wish to pick out a villain to burden with Ghana’s woes at Afcon 2019, but — perhaps aside referee Victor Gomes — you would struggle to find any.
Well, his Afcon debut will not be remembered as the most memorable, but even the very best have fluffed their lines from 12 yards and the Trabzonspor man is as gutted as the rest of his compatriots, anyway.
Well, he could have taken his extra-time scoring chance better, but he still finishes as Ghana’s top-scorer at the tournament and put in a more-than-decent shift overall.
Oh, Kwesi Appiah?
Well, he could have saved that final substitution for a more able goalkeeper — namely Felix Annan, so often a penalty-saving hero for his club, Asante Kotoko — just as his opposite number, Alain Giresse, did. That aside, Appiah does not merit half the abuse he is sure to get over the following days.
Appiah probably won’t survive the latest disappointment, but many he invited to this year’s party would, and there is plenty of potential and promise in there for Ghana to draw on going forward. Within the likes of Kwabena Owusu, Samuel Owusu and Kassim Nuhu Adams burns a flame of hope, kept ablaze by new torchbearers in the mold of the Thomas Parteys, Richard Oforis and Baba Rahmans.
‘Generation Gyan’, though, has reached its terminal. Asamoah Gyan, the Stars’ poster boy and defining figure — for better or for worse — of the last decade, looks finished (we suspected it, but his 50-odd minute shift here did little to convince otherwise). His fellow veteran of seven Afcon editions, skipper Andre Ayew, would clutch at the armband a little longer, but he – like other ageing contemporaries who made the trip — may never taste another major tournament in a Ghana shirt.
For these, the end cannot be too far away, but Ghana can look right beyond that not-too-distant future. The Afcon is no scratch-and-win task; it’s a series of ‘try agains’, and that has certainly proved true in Ghana’s case. The tunnel is still dark, the light invisible, and the thirst for continental conquest will be stretching into a fourth decade by the time the next Afcon comes around. But even if the wait extends further, persistence will eventually pay off — just as it has for Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon in recent years.
Someday. Somehow. It will.
Sammie Frimpong — Daily Mail GH