Ahead of their African Cup of Nations semi-final clash with Burkina Faso the Cutter has secured an interview with Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah where we find him in circumspect mood. “In this tournament anything really can happen”.

How is the mood, the spirit in the Ghana team camp at the moment?

Everyone is happy. When we were coming to this competition we knew we would have a good team, but we also knew it was going to be difficult, as the Africa Cup of Nations can be. And we were concerned with the fact that we have introduced and are training a lot of young players and still have ­­­­the same tradition and expectation as before, building on our experience in the World Cup.  But in qualifying for the semi-final, we are really happy about this.

Were you surprised by how well Cape Verde had done when you played them in the quarter finals, their first Africa Cup of Nations?

No.  We played Cape Verde in Portugal in a friendly game, and since then I personally have developed a lot of respect for them.  From the start of the competition, they have been doing so well, and in my first thought, I felt that it is not harder playing a team like Ivory Coast than playing Cape Verde.   The fact that there would be no pressure on them, compared to playing Ivory Coast, who have a ton of pressure playing against Ghana, and also us against them.  And I think Cape Verde proved me right.

And to speak about pressure, do you think that played a part in Ivory Coast going out surprisingly early?  Is there more pressure on some teams, like the Ivory Coast and Ghana, than the other teams?

There are big football nations in Africa, like Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and when meeting any of them, like Ivory Coast meeting Ghana, typically there is pressure on Ghana, but the pressure on Ivory Coast will be much, much higher, considering the fact that they have such big names in their team and everyone expects them to do well.

Do you feel, now that as the Ivory Coast are out, that the path to lift the trophy for Ghana is easier now?

I wouldn’t say that. I would say that any team that has qualified for this competition should not be underestimated.  Nobody told Burkina Faso or Togo, or even Cape Verde, they will get to the quarter final.  But this is the Africa Cup of Nations and in this tournament anything really can happen, it is that kind of competition and one of the reasons it is so special.

The pitch that you will play Burkina Faso in Mbombela Stadium has been critisised. Knowing about its poor condition, will that change the way you will play on it?

Both teams have to play on the same pitch, so it is not an advantage for one or a disadvantage for the other.  Both teams have to cope.  As a team we like to play a technical game where we pass the ball and move into more dangerous areas building pressure as we advance up the pitch.  On a pitch like this, we might have to be more direct, but this group of players can play in a number of different ways and we have trained with different styles so the condition of the pitch is not a problem for us, nor an excuse.

There are many new players to the Ghana squad, some that have had a big impact in this tournament like Asante, Wakaso and Atsu.  How have these players coped with the pressure? 

There are ten or eleven new players in the Ghana squad and we are very pleased with the attitude and enthusiasm of these young guys.  The way they have come into the camp, trained hard and shown their qualities has been very impressive.  The older guys who have been playing for Ghana for some time now have really helped them, the Ghana camp is like that with the more experienced players guiding them, making them feel at home and putting them at ease.  This is so important.  The senior players have simply been together for years, and that is part of it.  Most of the time the older players themselves, or me, have meetings with a younger player after a match to ask what they think, what they did right, and how they can improve.  And on the pitch they look out for each other, and they talk on the pitch to control and support each other. I think this spirit is a big part of our success.

Do you feel that this group of players is destined for great things, with the balance of youth in the side that beyond this Africa Cup of Nations and looking ahead to the World Cup, Ghana will continue to grow as a footballing nation?

Ghana has so many young talents, and many of them are now coming up from the junior Ghana side that has been so successful in recent years, and establishing themselves in the European clubs.  Many of them are rising stars.  I believe in these players, and I committed to playing them in the group stage, and was pleased to see them perform.   There are also many young players in the pipeline in Ghana coming up that will give anything to be the best and play for their national team, some of whom went to Europe early and are in youth systems in good clubs.    And in a year or two they can really, be much, much better than now.  The future of Ghana is very bright in football.

Find out more from the Ghana team and African Football at www.puma.com/africanfootball