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15 years ago, this month, a young and talented footballer Andre Ayew was called up for the first time by the Black Stars for a friendly match against Senegal.
When Ayew was invited, it was less surprising because he had impressed since breaking into Marseille’s first team at the age of 16.
Despite this, due to the team’s star-studded makeup, Ayew was not expected to play in his first call-up, but he did, coming on as a late substitute in the 1-1 draw at The Den in London.
Since then, Ayew has received numerous call-ups, cemented his position as an undisputed starter, played in 107 games (second-most), scored 23 goals, and is currently serving as Black Stars captain.
Majority of Ayew’s Black Stars goals have come in important games. He has frequently shown that he can step up and score goals that matter. In light of this, let’s examine five instances in which Ayew delivered Ghana from impending disaster.
It was Ghana’s second match of the competition held in Angola, and the Black Stars were desperate for three points. Togo withdrew from the tournament after a shocking terrorist attack on their team bus killed three people. As a result, Ghana’s group had three teams, including Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso
In the first games, the Black Stars were defeated 3-1 by Ivory Coast, while Burkina Faso earned a point against Ivory Coast. This meant that Ghana had to defeat Burkina Faso at all costs in order to advance to the quarter-finals. Burkina Faso would have been satisfied with a draw.
It was a tight contest that was settled by an Ayew great header. Ayew took advantage of some woeful marking by Burkina Faso to head home after half an hour and send Ghana through in second place. The goal was Ayew’s first for the Black Stars.
Ghana went on to win two more games and reach the AFCON final for the first time in 20 years, but were beaten by star-studded Egypt.
After a superb goal against Mali in the group stage, Ayew scored to inspire Ghana to beat Tunisia and advance to the semi-finals of the tournament.
John Mensah put the Black Stars ahead after nine minutes in the last eight clash, before Sabeur Khalifa equalised for Tunisia just before half-time.
The game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes, and remained level until a Tunisia mistake gifted Ghana the winner. Carthage Eagles goalkeeper Aymen Mahtlouthi spilled a cross for Ayew to tap home.
Ayew was wearing the captain’s armband when he scored the winner. He was only 21, but he took responsibility in the absence of the big boys, who had been substituted, and saved the team.
Ghana’s 2014 World Cup campaign is one that people try not to remember because it was a total disaster both on and off the field. Everyone would agree, however, that Ayew had a fantastic tournament, being one of Ghana’s best players, if not the best in Brazil.
The Black Stars got off to a bad start, losing 2-1 to the United States in the group opener. In that game, Ayew combined brilliantly with Asamoah Gyan to score Ghana’s consolation goal. The loss put Black Stars in a precarious position, as they needed to win their second group game to stay in the competition. The opponent was none other than Germany.
The Germans had annihilated Portugal and were heavy favourites against the Black Stars, but Ayew was in inspired form and delivered an outstanding performance.
Six minutes into the second half, Mario Gotze gave Germany the lead in Fortaleza. With elimination looming, Kwesi Appiah’s men were forced to rise to the occasion, with Ayew scoring with a powerful header that beat Manuel Neuer and brought Ghana level.
Buoyed by Ayew’s goal Black Stars took the lead when Asamoah Gyan fired firmly beyond the goalkeeper. Germany needed the experienced Miroslav Klose to rescue a point.
Ghana scored four goals in three games in Brazil, two of which were scored by Ayew.
After losing 2-1 to Senegal and winning 1-0 to Algeria in their first two games, Ghana knew they needed to beat South Africa to advance to the quarter-finals. However, the Black Stars struggled to get going and had to come from behind to secure three points.
Mandla Masango had given South Africa the lead with a spectacular volley from 25 yards, and with 17 minutes remaining, Ghana were on their way out as they trailed 1-0, but John Boye’s equaliser gave them hope, and Ayew’s impressive goal confirmed qualification.
Ayew bravely headed home Baba Rahman’s left-wing cross after his team appeared to be eliminated. Ayew stole the show and dominated headlines yet again with a big goal.
He scored again in the tournament, this time in the semi-finals against Equatorial Guinea, as Ghana secured a place in the final.
Ayew enjoys these types of games, and he delivered at the Cape Coast Stadium. A shocking draw against Ethiopia in the penultimate match put Ghana in serious danger of missing out on a second consecutive World Cup after making three appearances in a row between 2006 and 2014.
Ghana were three points behind South Africa heading into the contest. South Africa only needed a draw, while Ghana needed any kind of win to dethrone Bafana Bafana and secure a spot in the final qualifying round.
South Africa were determined to eliminate Ghana, but cometh the hour cometh the man. Ayew, the man for the big occasions, stepped up once more. He scored the only goal of the game. Ayew, playing his 100th match for the Black Stars, converted calmly from the spot after Daniel Amartey was fouled in the box in the first half.
Ayew once more was the deciding factor. Ghanaians value this goal especially because it helped the Black Stars qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.
Ayew, now 32, will lead Ghana in Qatar later this year. Clutch moments like the ones described above are to be expected.
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