JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Ghana skipper and part-time musician Asamoah Gyan has hit the right notes leading up to Saturday’s Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final against Cape Verde here.
Gyan appeared overweight and almost disinterested in his team’s first two Group B games against the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, but the striker nicknamed ‘Baby Jet’ finally found his bearings against Niger last Monday.
He fired the Black Stars in front after just six minutes before setting up young Christian Atsu for the second goal.
And just after the interval, John Boye smashed home a third goal from a rebound after the Niger goalkeeper could not hold a powerful, close-range Gyan header.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah rates 27-year-old Gyan as the country’s best striker and a big inspiration to a squad with 11 debutants at the Nations Cup.
“He’s our best player. He did well against Niger and I know he can do even better,” remarked Appiah.
“He also does a lot off the pitch and the players respect him.”
The former Sunderland striker is expected to lead his country to their first continental trophy since 1982 when they defeated hosts Libya in a final settled by penalties.
“Everybody is worried that we have not won this competition in the past 31 years. It’s being quite a long time since we won,” he said.
“We will continue to fight together and win together so as to do so.
“We have now qualified beyond the group stage and are on course to lift the Cup.”
It was only five years ago when Gyan and older brother Baffour threatened to walk out on the squad because of the criticism from fans when Ghana hosted the tournament.
At the 2010 championship in Angola, the striker carried a makeshift team all the way to the final before they lost to Egypt, while last year he also played an integral role as the Black Stars reached the last four.
He missed a penalty in a 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Uruguay as well as in the 2012 Nations Cup semi-final against Zambia.
He resolved, in honour of his mother who died last year, not to take spot kicks at this year’s tournament and when Ghana were awarded one against Mali, Mubarak Wakaso stepped up to score.