Bashiru Hayford, embattled head coach of Ghana’s Black Queens, has defied circumstance and declared imminent victory over adversity.
Hosts Ghana face certain death in the event they don’t beat Group A leaders, Cameroon, in Accra, today.
Though the odds favour Cameroon, six points rich from two wins – beat Mali 2-1 and Algeria 3-0 in the other group matches – Hayford, whose team risks a dreaded early exit from the AWCON 2018, is virtually laughing at the gathering storm.
Ghana have one win (beat Algeria 1-0) and one loss (fell 1-2) to Mali, who had lost their opening match 1-2 to Group leaders, Cameroon, putting the hosts in a precarious situation, facing a probable first round exit, today.
Yet, Bashiru Hayford, a late addition to the team at the instance of then acting head coach, Mercy Tagoe-Quarcoo following the desertion of Didi Dramani, has a chance to shock the world.
“I strongly believe that we will beat Cameroon tomorrow to get six points,” he said, on the eve of perhaps his biggest assignment.
If you are wondering what next, Hayford continues, “… then we see what happens in the other match between Mali and Algeria”.
Okay, Mr. Confident Ghana Head Coach, hold on. Let’s go check with your opponent.
Joseph Brian Ndoko, head coach of Cameroon, what are your thoughts?
“It’s not been easy. From our first game to our second game, we have improved very well and the girls have been attentive to the instructions we gave them at training.
“Our next game is against hosts Ghana and it will not be easy like people see it out there, especially as they lost their last game and will need nothing short of a win.
“This will not change how we are training and motivating the girls because we are focused the same way we did against Mali and Algeria.
“Mind you, we have not qualified to the semi- finals yet despite having six points, so there will not be the need for complacency against Ghana.
“A draw will see us through, but that will not be our vision going into the game.
“We are poised to end the Group Stages with a win and hopefully we can achieve that against Ghana tomorrow. We are going to give it our best shot.
What about the players? What do they say?
Raissa Feudjio Tchuannyo (Midfielder, Cameroon)
We won our previous two games, and tomorrow, it will be against the host nation. We all know what it entails playing against a host nation at any tournament. The fans will be cheering every move they make and that can sometimes put pressure on the opponent. However, we are not going to be affected by that.
We are focused as a team and we respect Ghana very much, but we are going to approach the game with a winning mentality to claim the three points at stake. We are not even thinking of the mathematics of what will happen if we lose or draw. All we know is that we have a game against Ghana that we have to win and qualify to the semi-finals.
Let’s check with the state of mind of Ghana’s Black Queens. Are they ready for the battle?
Bashiru Hayford (Head Coach, Ghana)
It has not been easy since we played our last game because the mood in camp was a sad one as the girls were in tears. In fact, we used the whole of yesterday to psyche them up and gradually they are getting better, and about 80 per cent okay. We will use today and tomorrow to add the remaining 20 per cent.
Against Mali, we played everything we knew but the result didn’t go in our favour. It is in the past now and we have moved on. We are not out of the competition yet so we have another chance to redeem our image.
Cameroon indeed has six points but they have also not qualified because in football anything can happen. Algeria can beat Mali and we too can beat Cameroon, so I want to urge Ghanaians not to write the girls off. I strongly believe that we will beat Cameroon tomorrow to get six points then we see what happens in the other match between Mali and Algeria.
Okay. Let’s hear it from one of the players, then.
Sherifatu Sumaila (Midfielder, Ghana)
First of all I would like to thank Ghanaians for their support so far and also urge them to continue supporting us on Friday. It has not been easy for us these past few hours because we lost against Mali. We (my colleagues and I) were down because we believed we deserved better.
We went back and watched the footage of the game against Mali and identified certain things that we need to correct and the coaches are working on that so hopefully we should bounce back to winning ways.
All is not lost although I feel Ghanaians are expecting too much from us. However, we are going to do our best to make sure we beat Cameroon on Friday irrespective of what happens in the other Group A game in Cape Coast.
Clearly, the battle lines are drawn. For the 2017 silver medallists, Cameroon, it’s a chance to berth at the semis and a potential ticket to the France 2019 world cup.
However, for hosts Ghana, it’s simply win or die! If you ask Bashiru Hayford, it’s a win, no doubt!
Doubt it? Find out what happens at the Accra Sports Stadium, today, starting 1600 GMT.
EDITED FROM: cafonline