It has been an eventful year thus far for Asamoah Gyan. The 24-year-old striker began it by inspiring Ghana into the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, which they lost to Egypt, before he attracted headlines aplenty at the FIFA World Cup™. The majority of those were for brilliant performances, but some were for missing a last-gasp penalty against Uruguay that cost the Black Stars a semi-final place.
Still, Gyan had done enough to interest a series of clubs and, following abundant speculation, he became the subject of one of the recent transfer deadline day’s biggest moves, swapping Rennes and France for Sunderland and the English Premier League. He did not have long to familiarise himself with his new surroundings, however, as he was off to represent Ghana in their opening qualifier for the next Cup of Nations. And although the Accra Academy graduate, who made his international debut aged just 17, was not on target in a 3-0 win over Swaziland, he was one of the match’s most illuminative figures.
FIFA.com caught up with Gyan to discuss his and Ghana’s displays in South Africa, that spot-kick failure, moving to Sunderland and his ambitions.
FIFA.com: Asamoah, congratulations on your move to Sunderland. Was it always your dream to play in England?
Asamoah Gyan: Playing in England is a dream to many players, so I'm happy to be there. It’s a big stage and I’m looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead. I know it won't be easy but I will work twice as hard in order to achieve my goals. But first I have to adapt to the conditions. After I signed, I had to travel with the national team to Swaziland for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. But sure, I’m looking forward to the challenge and a change of environment.
Do you feel your performances at South Africa 2010 have raised your profile?
The team played very well at the World Cup, we gave it our all and maybe that is what people noticed. I think we surprised a lot of people who doubted us before the event. It was unfortunate that our World Cup had to end like that. But once again, we are proud of our achievement, we know it could have been better, but you can’t change what happened. Naturally, after a team has played well at the World Cup, people take notice and that has not only been me, but some of my team-mates who did very well at the tournament. Personally, I think I did well too.
Take us through the moments before and after you took that penalty in the quarter-final against Uruguay. What was going through your mind?
In each and every interview, it seems people have to ask that question, but I understand (laughs). Honestly, it’s an experience I would like to forget, it was so close. You must understand that before that game, I had scored almost all the penalties I'd taken. I had the confidence that I could score that one. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. It was an overwhelming moment. As the ball hit the post, I felt this weird feeling inside of me, it was like I had let people down. Actually, I knew I had let so many people down, but that is football. These things happen in football. I haven’t given myself time to analyse that moment minute-by-minute, but I can tell you that it hurt me a lot. My team-mates and the coaching staff were very supportive. I'm trying to move on from that heartbreak.
What has been the most valuable lesson you and Ghana have learned from the FIFA World Cup experience?
We learned so many things during the World Cup, I think we came out a better team. We are a young team, most of the squad played at the Under-20 World Cup last year, but we can always be better, we can improve. We have to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations and hopefully win the tournament. I think we were unlucky against Egypt in Angola. More importantly, we saw that as Africans, we can achieve a lot if we put our mind to something. The World Cup was fantastic and the atmosphere was great.
Talking about the future. What are you personal goals?
First of all, I want to help both Ghana and my new club win trophies. I can only do well if I’m winning things at club and international level. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The most important thing for me is to improve and mature as a player. Consistency is important.