HIGH STAKES: GRANT’S ‘HONEYMOON’ OVER

Avram Grant can’t take anything for granted anymore, as his seat at the helm of the Black Stars gets hotter

By: Sammie Frimpong

Suffice to say Avram Grant has had arguably the easiest first 18 months of any Ghana boss.

Infact, the strongest opponents of Grant’s tenure — Senegal, Algeria, South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire, in no particular order — were all faced in his very first weeks of baptism into the African game, at 2015’s Nations Cup.

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Avram Grant has had a relatively easier first 18 months in the helm

Since then, the tests have come thick and fast — but ridiculously easy, too. Dates against the lowly quartet of Rwanda, Mozambique, Comoros and Mauritius have produced no losses, a ticket to the next year’s Afcon with a qualification game to spare, and one admittedly tiny step forward in the race to reach the 2018 Fifa World Cup.

Gabon 2017 would be no walk in the park for the Stars, though. The silver medals won in 2015, though collected largely on the back of some solid performances, also smacked somewhat of the momentum which spurs on sides that enjoy a fresh managerial lease on life.

With Grant’s honeymoon now certainly over, his team would have to count on more enduring strengths as it prepares for a party that has its regular heavyweights — including record winners Egypt, who’d finally be making an appearance after a three-edition absence — already booking their tickets. The competition would be no easier to win than before, maybe rather even more keenly contested, and Ghana’s output would have to be top-notch if the mystery of a 34-year wait for continental glory is to be resolved. And, oh, this time, a runner-up finish would hardly qualify as success, after all the near-misses suffered over the decades.

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Avram has his job well cut out for him

Getting to a fourth World Cup, though a long-term goal relative to our Afcon-winning hopes, would be just as tough — if not tougher. Comoros may have been an easy start, but given that the 2-0 aggregate triumph over Les Coelecantes seemed laboured, the Stars would have to dig into their reserves to emerge unscathed. Ghana may well be spared the worry of facing the quartet of Algeria, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal (with whom we occupy Africa’s five highest places in the latest World Fifa Ranking), but there still remain the threat of — depending on whom the pots and ensuing draw scheduled for later this month would throw at us — Cameroon, Cape Verde, Egypt, Nigeria, Mali, South Africa, Morocco et al, to dread when the year-long qualifying marathon heats up from October 2016.

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Honeymoon over. Time to wake up and smell the coffee

Put simply, Grant needs to sit up. Whatever the Israeli has spent his time in Europe doing in recent months better yield dividends which would influence Ghana’s chances positively, while the best on the domestic front should be incorporated as well. The Stars are fine in their current shape but would need to have the lingering loose ends tied, as ‘fine’ just won’t cut it when it matters most. And — as Grant would soon realize if he hasn’t already — it’s never mattered more in his Ghana reign.

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