/ 3 July 2010

African teams need more grit to triumph

African teams have made progress dealing with financial and tactical demons that had always plagued them during major tournaments but need work on their mental stamina to triumph finally on the world stage, former Ghana defender Anthony Baffoe said on Saturday.

Baffoe, who earned 16 caps for Ghana in the 1990s, said though the six teams that represented the continent at the World Cup had a poor showing, they had come a long way from the days when indiscipline and quarrels over pay reigned.

“African teams are moving ahead, both in administration and organisation. If you remember not long ago, there always were fights about bonuses, but this time you did not hear anything about that,” Baffoe told journalists.

“We have a lot of talents. I believe what we still have to work on is psychologically and mentally to be ready. We have shown that we are disciplined and also tactically, we are organised. We are coming closer,” he said.

However, Baffoe bemoaned the lack of determination shown by Africa’s soccer powerhouses during the early round of the tournament.

Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire and host nation South Africa were all eliminated in the first round of the competition hosted for the first time on African soil, with only Ghana making it through to the quarterfinals stage.

“I was disappointed with Nigeria to be honest. Ivory Coast had a very tough group, but they should have won the match against Portugal,” he added.

Cruel football
Baffoe praised the exploits of Ghana who came very close to making tournament history by being the first team from the continent to qualify for the semifinals round of the World Cup.

Ghana, however, fell 4-2 on penalties after a dramatic game that saw them coming within a kick of winning but for a missed penalty by striker Asamoah Gyan in the dying seconds of extra-time.

“It was a drama, it was like a movie. I was very sad. We had it in our own hands to win the match and go to the semifinals,” Baffoe said.

“Football can be cruel and yesterday, it was for Ghana,” he added.

Baffoe had consoling words for Asamoah, urging him to forget the missed penalty saying despite the defeat, the team would be celebrated as heroes.

“I missed the final penalty in Senegal in 1992,” Baffoe said of a decisive penalty he missed during the final of the African Cup of Nations, a miss that handed the trophy to Côte d’Ivoire.

“The greatest thing is that when I came back home, people carried me. That showed that they were satisfied with our performance, same as Asamoah Gyan will be,” he said. – Reuters