Christian Atsu has opposed widely shared opinions that Ghana are not one of the favourites to win the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.
The former Newcastle player will not be in Cameroon, missing out on the Nations Cup for the first time since 2013.
In his absence, Milovan Rajevac has named a 28-man squad made up of 50% of players who will be experiencing the tournament for the first time.
Also, the squad has an average age of 25.03, and seven players have not played more than one match for the senior national team, which highlights the team’s inexperience.
These and other factors including inadequate preparations, as exposed in the big friendly defeat against Algeria on Wednesday, has made many Ghanaians sceptical about the chances of the Black Stars.
But the attacking midfielder has been monitoring the team from his base in Saudi Arabia and thinks Ghana have a strong team to emerge winners for the first time since 1982.
“We have a very strong team; people don’t realise it,” Atsu spoke confidently to 3news.com in an exclusive interview days before the continent’s competition kicks off in Yaounde.
“We have young players but some people are complaining about their lack of experience. I am surprised people are still complaining about young players because for me, it doesn’t matter whether you are young or old it is all about what you can do on the pitch.
“As a young player, when you are given the opportunity, you must do your best else you won’t get a second chance unless you are lucky.”
Atsu added, “We have a very good team, we have to support the team, and we have to expect a lot from them.
“I heard someone saying we shouldn’t expect a lot from these players but what are they going to do in the tournament? They have to go and win.”
Atsu hasn’t been on top form recently, hence his exclusion didn’t come as a surprise. However, his exceptional display at AFCON 2015 as the Black Stars reached the finals and lost painfully to Ivory Coast remains fresh in the minds of Ghanaians.
Atsu was adjudged Player of the tournament, won the best goal for his wonder strike against Guinea and was featured in the team of the tournament.
Ghana’s first match is against Morocco on Monday, January 10 before taking on Gabon and Comoros respectively.