Friday, July 25, 2008


KUMASI Asante Kotoko are aiming to go one step better in their continental campaign — into the money zone — on Sunday, and I can imagine how Kumasi will explode in the aftermath of the game.
When they line up at the Baba Yara Stadium against Libya’s Al-Ittihad in a second leg final qualifier for the group stage, a huge opportunity will also be presented the Porcupine Warriors to back their claim that they were robbed of victory in the first leg.
Kotoko have attributed their 2-1 first leg defeat to Al-Ittihad to controversial officiating, and when they move for the final leap towards the group stage, they do so with a mission to recover from that “robbery” and make a strong case of their resolve to clinch the ultimate.
On paper Al-Ittihad do not look the side to shatter the dreams of Kotoko, but the intricacies in football demand caution in such situations.
Kotoko go into the game minus three key players – Osei Kuffuor, Harrison Afful and Samuel Inkoom – but the spirit in camp points to a typical Asante Kotoko fighting game on Sunday.
Kotoko’s drive up to this stage of the competition had been impressive, and when they play at their favourite Baba Yara Stadium they look even more terrific.
“We have a mission to fulfil this season and we are on course”, Sylvester Asare Owusu, CEO of Asante Kotoko said.
The wealth of continental experience has been a key ingredient in Kotoko’s continental championship dream, and taking the cup will be a realistic target. But the temptation to dismiss the Libyan champions can be dangerous.
Although the 1-2 loss in Tripoli places them in a shaky search for a berth in the next stage of the competition, a lot will depend on the quality of play of Kotoko, especially how they convert their chances.
Al-Ittihad can confound the Ghanaian champions if underrated. A side that is so determined to become a force in continental club football cannot be taken for granted.
Perhaps Kotoko must approach the game with a humble attitude, ready to work hard without carrying themselves as better than the Libyans.
Assistant coach Johnson Smith is the man everybody is looking up to devise the strategy that would topple Al-Ittihad.
On the face value, it looks difficult to find suitable replacements for the two intelligent defenders, Harrison and Inkoom, but Smith has given the assurance to fill the vacuum to be created.
Expectations are that Osei Kwame Jnr and Godfred Yeboah will take up the roles. Godfred is an experienced player who has the guts to meet the challenges.
With Daniel Nii Adjei, Eric Bekoe, Kwabena Yaro, George Asare and the members of the squad battle-ready, Kotoko cannot afford to let the nation down.

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