Ghana coach ready to ‘learn’  …as pressure grows ahead of World  Cup qualifying

Ghana head coach, Chris Hughton, says he will “learn from previous experienc­es” as speculation surrounding his future with the Black Stars mounts before the start of their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Hughton, who is preparing the team for matches against Madagascar and Comoros, has been under pressure since the West Africans lost 2-0 to Mexico and 4-0 to the United States in friendlies last month.

Black Stars

Despite the intense specu­lation, the 64-year-old says his mind is fully focused on the task ahead.

“It’s for me as coach to learn from our players’ performanc­es and how we can improve, because ultimately you’re now playing competition games two World Cup qualifiers,” the former Brighton and Newcastle boss told BBC Africa.

“They’re two games that we must do well in.

“My role as coach of the Black Stars is to get the best re­sults and the best performances from the team. You can’t always get that.

“But you can always learn from your previous experiences, whether it’s good or bad. And, ultimately, I will work as hard as I always do to try to get things the best way that we can.”

Ghana captain, Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew, who was left out of the squad that faced Mexico and USA has been recalled by Hughton for the match at home against Mada­gascar on 17 November and away to Comoros four days later.

Ayew, 33, has signed for French side, Le Havre, as a free agent for the rest of the 2023/24 season.

He captained the Black Stars at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where Ghana exited at the group stage, and Hughton says the forward is integral to the national set-up.

“DedeAyew is still a very good player and still somebody that can be the best player in training,” the Irishman added.

“He is somebody that has an added importance because he is captain he is a very good influ­ence to the younger players that are in the squad. And so it’s not just about his playing ability, it’s for what he means to the squad.”

Ghana will also face Mali, Central African Republic and Chad for a place at the 2026 World Cup, with the winners of Group I guaranteed a place in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Ivory Coast on 13 January, with Ghana fans hungry for success.

The Black Stars have not won the coveted title since 1982, the last of their four Nations Cup triumphs, and have been drawn alongside Egypt, Cape Verde and Mozambique in Group B.

But Hughton says his players must stay focused on the start of their World Cup qualifying cam­paign next week.

“It’s great to want to talk about AFCON, but sometimes for coaches it’s difficult because we have two very important games before then,” he said.

“I think if your concentra­tions are too far past that then you can take your eye off what is in this moment the most import­ant thing our World Cup qualifi­cation games.

“What we would want is to do well in these games, to win these games and to be able to go into AFCON with good mo­mentum. But this World Cup qualifiers must come first.”

As for the Nations Cup, Hughton expects to face stiff competition from a number of countries in Ivory Coast.

“Morocco, Egypt, Sene­gal, Cameroon, Tunisia at this moment, the level of teams performing in Africa and in the Africa Cup of Nations is as strong as it’s ever been,” he added.

“There are so many more players in big clubs in Europe and on the world stage which certainly makes the AFCON tougher for everybody, and also more exciting for everybody.

“We have a wonderful histo­ry and wherever you travel and speak about the Black Stars, it’s a world recognised country and football team. And of course, that comes down to the history of the Black Stars.”

Ghana, like so many of the teams who will feature at the Nations Cup early next year, have a host of names playing at some of Europe’s top clubs.

Arsenal midfielder, Thomas Partey, West Ham’s Mohammed Kudus and Crystal Palace for­ward, Jordan Ayew, will all leave their respective Premier League sides to feature in Ivory Coast, but Hughton says his players are fully focused on represent­ing their country.

“I’ve seen nothing to say that they are not absolutely fully committed. The spirit that we see in camp is wonderful,” he said.

“And I am incredibly confi­dent that everybody that turns out for the Black Stars is there because he wants to be there and he wants to give his all.”

Hughton believes that coaches across Europe are now more accepting of the situation and that previous club versus country rows have died down.

“Most clubs, head coach­es, managers, now accept that when they take an African player, there’s a chance that they will lose him for a period during the African Cup of Nations.

“So it’s one very much of the past and I think the modern club and modern technical staff accept that this is going to hap­pen.” —BBC