Le Roy faces great expectations
On Sunday, host nation Ghana kick off the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Accra's Ohene Djan stadium against an unpredictable and ultra-talented Guinea. The Black Stars will have the weight of expectation squarely on their shoulders as the whole country expects success, even given the loss of standout Stephen Appiah to injury.
In the process of fine-tuning the Ghanaian side for a title charge, French coach Claude Le Roy took time out to speak exclusively to FIFA.com about the opening match and the Herculean task that lies ahead for his team.
FIFA.com: Claude, you must feeling a tremendous burden of
expectation so close to kick off...
Claude Le Roy: It's tremendous pressure. I have been trying to keep my players calm and with only a few days to go we face unbelievable expectations. Ghana has not been crowned African champions since 1982 and we know we are in a very difficult group, but the atmosphere is fantastic and we have been working step-by-step to find a solution to playing without Stephen Appiah.
How much of an impact did his loss have on the
At the beginning it was very difficult, we felt the loss on the pitch because he (Appiah) is our tactical backbone. We miss him a lot but he will join us before the opening match to lend whatever support he can. There is now a larger burden of responsibility on the remaining, fit players and they are finding their feet.
So Appiah's presence, even if he is not in the team,
will be a huge lift to the morale of your squad?
Yes. He's very, very important, essential almost. When you are a coach you must not be afraid of having a big star around you, trying to help you. He brings something extra. He is the natural leader of this team, so it will be great to have him with us.
How long will he be with you?
He will stay for the whole tournament, as long as we are still involved. We don't know when we have to depart the championship. Hopefully it will be on February 11th, the day after the final!
What do you make of your first opponents Guinea?
They have the potential to be African champions. They have an excellent squad with a lot of offensive players who are very skilful, like (Pascal) Feindouno, Fode Mansare, Ibrahima Bangoura. They are very, very talented. We are aware that it will be very difficult task against them. That's why I think if we have three points at the end of the first day, we will be ready for the games that follow. We really need to achieve something in the opening game.
If you do win, will it lift a lot of the pressure off the
It's normal pressure. I have been to six Nations Cup finals now and that's how it is. But it is also a huge pleasure. I've told my players that millions dream to compete in a major championship like this but few get the chance. They must go out and enjoy and live the experience. They are privileged to have the opportunity.