Former Ghana and Chelsea ace Michael Essien has named the Black Stars among the favourites to win the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations,and tipped hosts Egypt and Nigeria as other serious challengers.
James Kwesi Appiah’s outfit, four-time champions, will be seeking to lift their first title since 1982 at the June 21 – July 19 tournament.
“That [question on the favourites] is a difficult one because there are so many good teams these days – it’s very difficult to choose the eventual winner,” Essien told Goal.
“You cannot rule out the North African teams, especially the host nation Egypt with Mohamed Salah.
“Then Ghana and the West Africans like Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon are all strong teams, so the winner could come from there.
“It’s too close to call, so may the best side win.”
The former AC Milan and Real Madrid midfielder also shared what he feels could end the Black Stars’ trophy drought.
“We need good hungry players, good management and a bit of luck to win titles in football and I have no doubt the team will be doing everything to win it,” he said.
“It won’t be easy because there are so many strong teams in Africa who will be looking to win it, so it’s going to be a big battle.
“I am sure the guys will be ready and we will find out in due course.”
After a period of poor results, Ghana’s renaissance as a major force was led by a group of players, including Essien.
Despite qualifying for two straight Fifa World Cup tournaments (in 2006 and 2010), the Black Stars still fell short of winning the continental diadem.
“It’s difficult to explain why [we couldn’t win the Afcon] because we applied the same level of dedication and effort in both the World Cup and the Afcon but football can be like that,” Essien explained.
“Sometimes you can try everything and still not win.
“But as long as you leave the pitch knowing you have given everything, you can hold your head high.”
Essien, in the twilight of his career, is currently on the books of Azerbaijani outfit Sabail FK.