Tuesday, July 22, 2008


KUMASI Asante Kotoko may be brandishing a deadly weapon ready to outgun Libya's Al-Ittihad at the Baba Yara Stadium on Sunday.
Just after their official crowning as Ghana's champion club, Asante Kotoko shift focus to the CAF Confederation Cup on Sunday, which they have vowed to annex to underline their resolve to make the season a complete success.
Kotoko are convinced that apart from meeting a relatively less-fancied side in Al-Ittihad, they have built a team that has the ability to break the jinx surrounding the club and win of continental club competitions since they last became Africa Champions in 1983.
On the strength of the form the Porcupine Warriors showed in Tripoli, they must be rated high and above the Libyan champions.
Indeed Al-Ittihad who won narrowly by 2-1 in the first leg final qualifier for the group stage may have found an uncomfortable opponent in Kotoko who look so eye-red to sweep past the Libyan champions.
Even though the star quality of the Kotoko team seems diminished by the absence of 3 first choice players, that has not epitomized a frustrated team.
Skipper Osei Kuffuor and right back, Samuel Inkoom, are ruled out of the game on grounds of suspension, whilst left back Harrison Afful is out there in Holland chasing a contract.
Assistant coach, Johnson Smith, is determined to pep up the team for a great show to facilitate passage into the group stage of the competition.
However, the match presents a huge test for the stand-in coach who will come under pressure to perform as Kotoko could not afford an ignominious exit.
Reflecting on the first leg game in Tripoli, Kotoko CEO, Sylvester Asare Owusu said, "It was a disgrace for referring in Africa".
"Even though we did not find the quality in the Libyan side, we are not going to take chances and will go all out to ensure victory", Sylvester said.
Indeed the temptation to dismiss Al-Ittihad outright could be dangerous. Although Kotoko's crowning as Ghana's champions must have boosted their confidence, a lot will depend on their output on Sunday.
Al-Ittihad are reportedly coming to Kumasi with three top players who missed the first leg because they went on trials with some foreign clubs.
A side with 14 national players, including some slippery attackers, cannot be taken lightly because on a good day they could be deadly.
The Kotoko defence against King Faisal last Sunday was not the best and the two penalties they conceded attested to the fact there is some work to do, especially as they will be missing Harrison and Inkoom.
This means Osei Kwame Jnr, Godfred Yeboah and George Asare would have to work extra hard to keep the Ittihad attack at bay.
But the real focus will be on the attack led by Eric Bekoe. A real class player, Bekoe must let his influence tell positively upfront.
Nothing but total victory would convince Kotoko supporters that the team is ready to take the cup.

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