Coach of the national U-23 side, Black Meteors, Ibrahim Tanko, has called on Ghanaians to rally behind the team to make a significant impact at the continental campaign when they engage Cameroun in their opening U-23 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) at the Cairo International Stadium today.
The Meteors trainer admitted that it will be tough to make it to the knockout phase considering the competitive nature of their group but was hopeful they could secure a ticket to next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo next year by finishing as one of the best three teams at the tournament.
Ghana has been paired with host nation Egypt, Cameroun and Mali in Group A as they look to book a place at the Olympics for the first time in 15 years since last competing in Athens 2004.
Coach Tanko’s side have been preparing feverishly to ensure they impress the nation at the competition with skipper Yaw Yeboah hopeful of leading the team to a remarkable performance.
Speaking to cafonline, coach Tanko expressed his charges desire of playing the best in order to reach their ultimate goal of playing at next year’s Olympic Games.
He admitted that expectations from Ghanaians were high but ruled out any pressure on his technical team and players ahead of the tournament which kicks off today.
“We are in a tougher group (Group A) compared to the other group (Group B). Once we have qualified, it means we are one of the best on the continent, and we have to play against the best in order to reach our goal of picking one of three tickets for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” he said.
“There is pressure everywhere, especially with Ghana’s failure to win the Africa Cup of Nations for a long time. The expectations of Ghanaians are high, but that doesn’t put any pressure on the technical team nor the players.
“Let’s not forget that no one gave us a chance to make it to the U-23 AFCON, especially after what happened against Algeria in the first leg in Accra but our performance in the return leg won the hearts of many Ghanaians who now believe that we are capable of picking one of three tickets for the Olympics next year,” Coach Tanko noted.
“All the teams in the group are good sides and I have watched a couple of their games and monitored some of their friendly matches in the build-up to the competition. The technical team believes we have the men to face any team but it is a tournament and we will take one match at a time,” he added.
Per the rules of the tournament, the first three teams will automatically book their place at the 2020 global showpiece and coach Tanko has set his sight on grabbing one of the slots.
When asked if winning the trophy was not his focus, the former Black Stars player explained that becoming champions at the tournament remain the outmost target for every country at the championship but qualifying for the Olympics must be secured at all cost.
“We have a target, and that is to pick one of three tickets to Tokyo. This is a competition and the trophy is the aim of all eight qualified teams and are aiming for the ultimate. However, if we fail to do so, the ticket to Tokyo must be secured at all costs,” he concluded.