Gyan steps back, Ghana still pays the penalty

Ghana and Asamoah Gyan had planned it differently this time, but

the result was still the same.

Penalties still haunted them Wednesday in a painful semifinal

loss to Burkina Faso in a shootout at the African Cup of

Nations.

Gyan had chosen not to take penalties at this African Cup after

a string of crucial misses from the spot by the striker in recent

tournaments, including in the quarterfinals of the World Cup and

the Cup of Nations semifinals.

After his late mother asked him to give up penalty-taking duties

shortly before she died, he respected her wishes, stood back and

watched on.

But the outcome was ultimately as painful for the captain as he

watched Isaac Vorsah, Emmanuel Clottey and Emmanuel Agyemang Badu

miss in the shootout as Ghana missed out on another African title

and extended its drought to at least 33 years.

”Definitely, we’ll be down right now but we’ll psyche ourselves

up,” Gyan said. ”As a captain, I have to go to the guys and

psyche them up.”

It was Gyan who needed consoling three years ago when he missed

a spot-kick in the dying seconds of extra time of a World Cup

quarterfinal that denied Ghana history as the first African team to

make the semifinals. Ghana went on to lose on penalties to

Uruguay.

He also missed in the semifinals at the African Cup against

Zambia 12 months ago, when the Zambians went on to the final and

the title.

For 2013, Gyan had stepped down in favor of Wakaso Mubarak and

it had worked for the Ghanaians – even in the early stages of the

semifinal against Burkina Faso at Mbombela Stadium. Wakaso stroked

home a 13th-minute penalty, his third successful penalty of the

tournament, for an early lead for the Black Stars.

But it unraveled in another agonizing experience from the

penalty spot for the Ghanaians.

Vorsah scuffed his penalty badly, Clottey also hit his kick past

the left post and didn’t even test the goalkeeper, and Agyemang

Badu had his attempt saved by Daouda Diakite for the final,

decisive miss.

Back near the halfway line, Gyan’s agony played out as he looked

on. Afterward, he was also forced to sit and listen – head in hands

– to Burkina Faso’s coach and captain talk about their victory as

the teams’ news conferences overlapped.

”We came here with a winning mentality,” Gyan said. ”We came

here to win this game to go to the final. We are really sad at the

moment. It’s normal. What else can I say?”