The four-time African champions suffered an unlikely group stage exit from the competition after failing to win any of their three games in Cameroon. The decade-long progress that they have enjoyed has come to an end.
It was a sad end to a promising tournament for Ghana’s captain, Andre Ayew, as he was sent off in their 3-2 defeat to Comoros at the Roumdjé Adjia Stadium in Garoua.
The illustrious Ayew was shown a straight red after clattering into Comorian goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina in the first half of the game.
After picking just a point in their first two matches, the Black Stars needed a win to stand a chance of making it into the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams. But they found the Coelocanths too slippery an opponent.
The debutants scored their first ever AFCON goal through El Fardou Ben Nabouhane early on in the fourth minute and held on for a famous victory.
The Ayews have a long history with the Black Stars. Patriarch Abedi Pele Ayew was a member of the national team when they won their fourth title in 1982. He led the team to the final in 1992 but missed the game after being sent off in the semifinal. The Ghanaians lost that final to the Ivory Coast via penalties.
Forty years later, his son Andre, was sent off as the Black Stars failed to make it out of the group stage for the second time since 2006. It is a night that Ghana and its football-crazy populace will remember in ignominy.
A little more than a decade after winning the FIFA U20 World Cup and reaching the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Ghanaian football dreams were left shattered on the field of Garoua.
Like many of the teams at the AFCON, Ghana changed its coach three months before the tournament.
Serbian trainer Milvan Rajevac was brought back to stave the dwindling fortunes of the team as they were struggling in their 2022 World Cup qualifying group.
Rajevac, the man who led the Stars to their quarter final finish at the World Cup in 2010, was quickly able to steady the boat and ensured that they topped their group ahead of South Africa to reach the final play-off stage.
But his magic was not enough when they came to the AFCON. They lost their opening Group C game 1-0 to a late Morocco winner.
The next game against Gabon was thrown into late drama as they conceded a late equalizer after putting out the ball for an injured opponent to receive medical attention.
So all hope was put into winning the final game against the Comorians who only qualified for their first AFCON this year.
The Black Stars were shocked by the early goal and lost Ayew shortly afterwards. The Comorians scored a second before Ghana fought back to make it 2-2. A late tap-in by Ahmed Mogni for his second of the night dealt the final blow for Ghana who were among the favourites for the title.
They will return to Accra with the hopes of saving their World Cup chances and Rajevac’s future under scrutiny.
Comoros’ victory against Ghana is just one of the examples of the small teams changing the narrative on the pitch at the AFCON.
Equatorial Guinea defeated defending champions Algeria 1-0 in a Group E game, thereby ending the unbeaten streak of the Foxes that dated back to 2018.
Debutants the Gambia have also been a revelation while Sierra Leone have shown how hard they can fight by avoiding defeats at the hands of Ivory Coast and Algeria.
This year’s AFCON is showing that the gulf in class of African teams continues to narrow.
Edited by Michael Da Silva