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THE CONTROVERSY: WHY A DAZZLING ASANTE KOTOKO HAS A DAUNTING TASK IN THE CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.


The IFFHS Africa Club of the century has a herculean task in the 2019/2020 CAF Champions League which commence on the 10th of August at the General Sani Abacha Stadium against Kano Pillars of Nigeria. Asante Kotoko is touted as one of the giants of African Football but their dormancy in the Champions league has rendered many clubs in Africa the zestful edge to overcome Asante Kotoko in Africa Club Competitions.
Asante Kotoko made their mark in African football in 1967, as they played TP Englebert in the final of the African Cup of Champions Club, one all stalemate at Baba Yara Sports Stadium and a 2:2 draw at the Stade Du 20 Mai in Kinshasha led to a third game which Kotoko wasn't well informed that led to TP Englebert declared champions. Asante Kotoko had their revenge 3 years later as they won their first African Club title in 1970, after edging TP Englebert on yet another one all draw and outclassed the Congo Kinshasha club at their home ground with a 2-1 victory. Kotoko with a scintillating performance once again grabbed their second African title after defeating Al-Ahly. With 7 African Club Competition finals to their name, Kotoko is undoubtedly one of the big guns in African football, but inconsistency in the African Club Competition makes it difficult for Kotoko to rub shoulders with the bigwigs in the African game.


After a near successful run in the CAF Confederation Cup  last season, Kotoko is faced with another task of 'doing well' or making a meaningful impact in the CAF Champions  League this season. It wasn't a 'jolly ride' for Kotoko in the  Normalization Special Competition, but Kotoko with their impact in the Confederation Cup proved to the Clubs in Ghana they are ready  to represent Ghana in Africa once again.
Kano Pillars is one of the best clubs in Nigeria and made their mark in the 2009 CAF Champions League which gave them the nickname 'Ahly Killers' after eliminating Al-Ahly in a 2-2 draw in Egypt and 1-1 draw in Nigeria. Kano Pillars has 4 league titles and their enviable unbeaten run from 21st June, 2003 to August 2015 makes them a stronger side to beat at home. Winning the Aiteo  Cup following a 4-3 penalty shootout over Niger Tornadoes serves as a major boost for Kano Pillars FC.

WHY ?
Just 6 players out of the current 18 man squad  played last season's CAF Confederation Cup for Asante Kotoko, one key point comes to mind, INCONSISTENCY. Many fans questioned the tactical abilities of former coach Charles K. Akonnor but were stupefied to hearing the elevation of C. K to the Technical Director position. The announcement of Kjetil Zachariasen from Ashgold was a good signing to some of the fans as his short stint with Ashgold in the second round of the Normalization Competition was delightful.  But this comes with positive and negative sides, is there going to be a general change in technical direction as C.K relinquished his new position ? One signature of the Ashgold team under the tutelage of Zachariasen was the possessive play, as C.K announced to the fans of Kotoko that he was bringing back the "agoro" football, can we conclude both of the coaches' style is same?
The friendly matches Kotoko played to prepare the team for the Champions League did not produce many goals, can that be used to make an analysis that the team is yet to gel? Technically, it's normal for quality individual players to struggle as they start playing together for the first time. With many new players and a shorter time for preparation the cohesion and telepathy of these players is yet to unfold. The tactical approach of Zachariasen will determine how well Kotoko can stand Kano Pillars with such  swift players.

KOTOKO'S KEY PLAYERS
FELIX ANNAN
The safest pair of hand for Asante Kotoko will definitely be in post for the Porcupine Warriors, with his dazzling and mind boggling saves Kotoko has a " Wall of Jericho" in post.
EMPEM DACOSTA
Ever seen a diminutive centre back before ? Empem Dacoster, formerly of Karela United is the most talented defender in Ghana now. Short in sight but deep in brain! Many Ghanaians have not had the chance to watch the talent Dacosta possesses. Dacosta will soon hit the ground running for the Royal Reds and will receive a lot of plaudits from the Kotoko fans.
JUSTICE BLAY
Justice was one of the most underrated defensive midfielders in Ghana, on loan from Medeama FC, Blay is yet to prove to Ghanaians  why a case should always be made for him when it comes to bossing the midfield. Very agile in the midfield with tireless runs to chase the ball always, his role in the midfield will be key for the Kotoko to getting a good results in Nigeria.
KELVIN ANDOH
The former Wa All Stars player is one of the best wingers in Ghana, his speed and ability to create chances for his teammates will be vital on Saturday for Kotoko. His quick runs and taking advantage of the pocket of spaces at the opponents area will be  a key threat to the Kano side. His dazzling runs for through balls is a quality that the midfield of Kotoko have to play to.
GODFRED ASIAMAH
Probably, Asiamah is the 'Messi' of the Kotoko side as the nimble left-footed  player is a big wheel for Asante Kotoko. Clearly, the spirited performance from Asiamah in the NC Special Competition's Tier 2 game that Kotoko played against Ashgold was the reason Kotoko grabbed him from the miners. At his best, Asiamah is unplayable and will give any wing back trouble in the Champions League.
EMMANUEL GYAMFI
Undoubtedly, Gyamfi is one of the fastest players in Ghana. His performance in last season's  CAF Confederation Cup was stunning, Gyamfi with his run on and off the ball makes him one of the best wingers in Ghana. As the new deputy captain, Gyamfi has a task of carrying the Royal Reds on his shoulder for another good stint in the Champions League.
RICHARD ARTHUR
Destined to play Kotoko? Richard played club friendlies for Kotoko in 2017 after moving from Wa All Stars before leaving for abroad. His striking ability can never be questioned, but myriad questions from the fans is, can he fill the boots of Songne Yacouba and  Abdul Safiu so fast? His touches and aerial abilities are his arsenal ,can he unleash them at the Sani Abacha Stadium ?

With all these wonderful talents assembled by Kotoko, can  Coach Zachariasen within 5 weeks fix a better team to challenge in the Champions League? Kano Pillars has a better team compared to Asante Kotoko but can Kotoko unleash the KUM APEM spirit to overcome their first hurdle in the quest to make an impact in the Champions League ? What are your thoughts?



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