Ghana the only star for Magpie Atsu

Christian Atsu of Ghana during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Finals football match between Ghana and Uganda at the Port Gentil Stadium in Gabon on 17 January 2017 ©Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Christian Atsu has been rekindling his love affair with the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, vowing that he’ll never put any club ahead of representing Ghana in the showpiece.

Atsu was one of the stand-out performers in the last edition of the Afcon, taking home the Player and Goal of the Tournament awards along with the silver medal Ghana received for finishing behind Ivory Coast. The England-based midfielder has continued where he left off. He has been a marvel to watch, picking up the Man of the Match award in Ghana’s 1-0 win over Uganda.

He had a field day with Mali’s defenders in the victory that took the Black Stars to the last eight.

On the same day that Ghana beat Mali 1-0, Atsu’s club Newcastle beat Rotherham 4-0 without him. The 25-year-old sent his teammates congratulatory messages after that victory and they returned the favour. The thought of being in England instead of being with Ghana at this time hasn’t crossed his mind. Cameroon weren’t that fortunate in assembling their squad for the showpiece. Eight players, including Liverpool’s Joel Matip, snubbed the Indomitable Lions – choosing their clubs ahead of their country.

“You can’t compare anything with your country,” Atsu said. “Your country must come first. It is always an honour to represent my country. Any time I am called, I will always be available. I will never refuse to represent my national team because I put my club first. Playing for Ghana means the world to me. I am glad that my club knows where I stand with representing my country. They understand because the (afcon) is the biggest tournament in Africa. As an African and a Ghanaian, I have to be there to represent my country.”

Atsu and his Ghanaian teammates have shown glimpses that they could stay in Gabon until February 4, the day of the final. They have used their experience to grind out results on a bad pitch at Stade de Port-Gentil. Despite being pushed by both the Cranes and the Eagles, the Black Stars kept back-to-back clean sheets in those wins.

They will be looking to keep a third successive clean sheet against Egypt tomorrow night in their last Group D match.

The Pharaohs need to avoid a defeat to make it to the last eight. Mali will be hoping that Ghana does them a favour by beating Egypt.

That would leave Mali needing only a victory against Uganda in the last round of matches that will kick-off at the same time, 9pm. The Black Stars would love to get one over Egypt.

The Pharaohs won 2-0 the last time these two nations met. A win over the seven-time African champions would give Atsu and company a 100 percent and also send a strong message to their rivals, but more importantly their fans who have seen them lose two finals in the last four editions.

“For some time the fans were not behind the Black Stars due to some reasons,” Atsu said. “We have to give them what they deserve.”

Source: IOL