AFCON 2021: Black Stars hit rock bottom after premature exit

Ghana succumbed to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Comoros on Tuesday night in a must-win game, and now have prematurely exited the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

AFCON 2021: Black Stars hit rock bottom after premature exit

By the end of 90 exacting minutes at the Stade Omnisport Roumde Adjia, tired bodies in white fell to the ground. Tears welled up in the eyes of the disappointed and defeated.

All the while, those victorious men in green for whom this AFCON was their first-ever, affectionately hugged and smiled and casually gossiped into the young night. For Ghana, it was rock bottom. For Comoros, it was their first-ever victory at their very first ever AFCON. Same earth, different worlds.

Black Stars sorely needed a win in this fixture. Nothing else really mattered. Just a win, however it came, to at least keep their hopes of qualifying for the last-16 alive.

After two group games without victory, this bout against Comoros offered the Black Stars another opportunity to show their raw mettle, to show what exactly they are made of.

Comoros themselves were winless and pointless and scoreless coming into this game. They had narrowly lost to Gabon in their opening group game, and had also suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of an arresting Morocco side.

Their tournament was nearly over, a chance to finish as one of the four best third-placed teams seemed a long shot. But after a dramatic 3-2 win over Ghana, they remain in contention for a spot in the last-16 at the time of writing.

And so in this dangerous animal kingdom comprising the Super Eagles, the Indomitable Lions, the Elephants, the Stallions, the Blue Sharks, the Antelopes, the Panthers, the Crocodiles of the Nile, the Desert Foxes, the Scorpions, etc ... the Black Stars were brutally feasted upon and failed to shine.

It was Ghana's first group stage exit in the AFCON since 2006, nearly two decades ago. It was also Ghana's first group-stage exit at the AFCON without a single win, an unwanted sort of statistic in there.

To be frank, Ghana's premature exit at the ongoing AFCON is in part due to Milovan Rajevac's errors in team selections and late substitutions. In part, it is also due to a frail squad painfully limited in experience and quality.

The absence of a match-winner is a reasonable factor, too. Could Ghana have fared better and even salvaged a point had Fatawu Issahaku been subbed in earlier in the thick of the action against Morocco?

Could he have made much of a difference as a starter against Gabon? Honestly speaking, why is Andy Yiadom our first-choice option at right-back?

A lot of factors can decide a football match. So when your last game is a make or break one, at times this is what happens to you: fate begins to frown at you, destiny begins to taste a little bitter.

This much was evident when Comoros scored as early as just four minutes into this fixture. This much was evident when a reckless lunge of the foot resulted in Dede Ayew seeing red with barely half an hour of football played.

In many ways, it felt like bad luck and mishap stalked the Black Stars. It was hovering over the players, it quietly mixed among them. How else do we explain that brilliant free-kick from Thomas Partey that flew just inches away from goal. How else do we explain how a brilliant comeback from 10-man Ghana was undone in the dying minutes of this maddening game?

As Comoros scored their third goal of the night, this entire nation at large fell silent. In this new quiet and empty state, the sharp buzzing sound of houseflies could be heard.

The constant humming sound of the refrigerator could be heard. The fast thumping sound of the human heart could be heard. Even the air began to smell different, purified water tasted a bit sour and poisonous.

Appetites for food were suddenly lost. Briefly, the country felt a little bit smaller and irrelevant and forsaken all at once. Is this not pain? Will the pain ever end?

Essentially this is what football does to you: it gives you hope and then it takes it away, it gives you joy and then it takes it away. And so in Group C, Ghana finished last. A reminder that the time of great heroes is long over.

A timely reminder the golden era of the Black Stars is long gone and now a distant memory. Has there ever been a Black Stars side this toothless and blunt in recent times? Will the future get bright?

This premature exit should serve as a wake-up call to this footballing nation. We can do better!

By Bright Antwi

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