“It’s not going to be easy (playing) against a host nation…they have their support behind them but we will do our best to stand them and not spoil our chance to go to the Olympics”, Ibrahim Tanko (Black Meteors Head Coach).
Head Coach of Ghana’s U-23 male national side, Ibrahim Tanko is optimistic of Ghana’s chances at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations following a successful group stage draw last Friday.
Ghana have been given a tough passage to the semis of the competition after being drawn with host country Morocco, Guinea and Congo.
The Black Meteors will play in the tournament’s opener against Morocco on Saturday 24 June 2023 at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex in Rabat before taking on Congo and Guinea for a spot in the last 4.
According to Ibrahim Tanko, playing against the young ‘Lions de l’Atlas’ won’t come any easy.
“It’s not going to be easy (playing) against a host nation…they have their support behind them but we will do our best to stand them and not spoil our chance to go to the Olympics”, he told FMIG in an exclusive interview.
Coach Ibrahim Tanko, a former Ghana international, was in charge the last time Ghana played in the tournament in 2019. The Black Meteors fell at the last hurdle after a penalty shootout defeat to South Africa cost the team a 3rd place finish and an eventual ticket to the football event of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Tanko opines that his team’s chances to make that coveted entry to the Olympics for the first time since 2004 were hampered following several squad withdrawals due to refusal of their clubs to release them.
“A lot of the players who played the qualifiers could not come for the main tournament, and it is one of the things that limited our chance of qualifying”, he told FMIG.
He however envisages a different and a more positive scenario playing out this time around. “But I think this time we are lucky, and I’m sure we are going to have a strong team.
Ghana’s U-23 trounced Algeria over 2 legs to make the final tournament. The team boasted an exciting attacking unit comprising Sporting CP talent Abdul Fatawu Issahaku, Ernest Nuamah (FC Nordsjaelland), Daniel Afriyie Barnieh (FC Zürich) to mention a few.
Hinting on his final squad for the tournament which starts next month, Coach Ibrahim Tanko is adopting a more open approach, indicating his willingness to include every quality player on the basis of availability.
“Every good player that can help us, we will invite him. Of course we have Fatawu (issahaku) Ernest Nuamah, Kamaldeen can play, Afena Gyan can play, Essiem, Salim, Zuberu…all of them are there.
“We are also looking at other players who are qualified to play so definitely we will do a very good selection for Ghana so that we will break that jinx since 2004,” he added.
Tanko even goes further to disclose that he is monitoring developments at the national U-17 side who recently excelled in an invitational tournament in Serbia and a top friendly in Saudi Arabia.
The Black Starlets have become talk of town following their high productive results and top performances and in the words of Ibrahim Tanko, his doors are open to any inclusion from that setup which will improve his squad.
“Yeah, I’m following them very well, you know we were in camp together, definitely they’re doing a good job. These coaches are my friends so we’ll keep on talking to get the best out of the young guys to help us when need be” he said.
Ghana is expected to host a 2 week camping at a yet to be decided venue while playing some high-profile games to ready for the tournament.
The U23 Africa Cup of Nations Morocco 2023 will take place between 24 June to 08 July 2023 in the cities of Rabat and Tangier.
In Group A, host Morocco is housed with Ghana, Congo and Guinea. Group B features holders Egypt, Mali, Gabon and Niger in what promises to be a high-flying show.
Group A matches will be held at Rabat’s Prince Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex while Group B matches will take place at the Grand Stade de Tanger, in Tangier.
The first three nations will get their ticket for the Summer Olympics in 2024.