FRANCEVILLE, Gabon – Asamoah Gyan underlined his scoring ability with a sublime, curling free kick to send Ghana on its way to an impressive 2-0 win over fellow title contender Mali at the African Cup of Nations.
The striker then bluntly reminded everyone afterward how good he thought he was.
“Everybody who plays against Ghana comes at us strong. Everybody playing against Ghana will be going against Asamoah Gyan,” he said. “I’ve been the lone striker six years. Everybody knows. It’s not my fault. This shows how great I am.
Gyan has become the centre of attention for Ghana at the African Cup, both on and off the field.
Having recovered from hamstring and ankle injuries that threatened to derail his tournament, he then scored his high-quality goal to kickstart the Black Stars’ campaign.
Despite Saturday’s victory, the 26-year-old Gyan has operated as a lone striker for his country at the competition, raising suggestions that opponents would be able to close down the team’s attacking threat by marking him out the game.
But the colorful, confident forward — who sports his No. 3 in yellow dye on the side of his head — said he was too good for that. He thrived on being the centre of attention for his opponents as well, he said.
“If somebody comes for me, I think this is a great thing. If you try to take me out of the game, I can punish you by scoring,” he said.
As well as referring to himself in the third person and telling reporters how great he was, Gyan also called Ghana’s team “my boys.”
It drew giggles from reporters at Stade de Franceville after the Mali match and even a sudden round of applause from one member of Ghana’s travelling media.
Some believe Gyan’s ego has a reason to be slightly inflated after he made his debut for his country at the age of 17, and has been its best striker for some years now.
There is no doubt that his presence up front will be crucial to Ghana’s hopes of ending a 30-year title drought at the African Cup.
And, after he missed that now-famous last-minute penalty against Uruguay that would have put the Black Stars into the World Cup semifinals two years ago — and made history for Africa — Gyan owes his team one.
At the same news conference, the striker — who displayed his array of talents by releasing a rap album — said he also knew what this year’s competition meant to his country, which won the last of its four African titles way back in 1982.
There was an air of caution as well.
“We hope to make Ghana proud by winning each game,” Gyan said. “It’s still too early to be talking about final or semifinal, we need to be taking each game (as it comes). The winning will decide where we are going.
“I think this victory (over Mali) is really, really important for the Black Stars. What matters is Ghana winning and us going to the next stage.”
Follow Gerald Imray at http://twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP