January 13, 2017 / 6:47 PM / 7 months ago

Soccer-Ghana look to end 35-year Nations Cup drought

LIBREVILLE, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Ghana have flirted with success on the back of strong performances at the last five African Nations Cup tournaments but fallen short each time, ensuring extra motivation for the Black Stars as they seek their first trophy since 1982.

"We have been in the ring at every tournament since 2008 but it is been 35 years since we won," key striker Andre Ayew told reporters as the team headed to Port Gentil to begin their Nations Cup campaign against Uganda in Group D on Tuesday.

"It was terrible to lose on penalties in the last final, to lose under such conditions in a shootout," Ayew said of the 2015 climax in Equatorial Guinea where Ghana lost to neighbours Ivory Coast 9-8 on penalties after a goalless two hours in Bata.

Ayew, a striker with English Premier League club West Ham United, is among three players who also played in the 2010 final in Luanda, where Egypt beat Ghana with a decisive goal in the last five minutes.

"We dominated that match but we had a side that was young and inexperienced," he said.

"I sincerely believe the Black Stars merit a Nations Cup win and it has been difficult to digest these setbacks. But it motivates us even more."

Ghana have reached the semifinal stage at every Nations Cup since they hosted the finals in 2008 -- five in a row -- yet for all their consistency, the grand prize has remain elusive.

Ayew's father, the former African Footballer of the Year Abedi Pele, was a teenager in the team when Ghana pipped hosts Libya on penalties to win in 1982.

With four titles in all, Ghana are grandees of the Nations Cup but this time round they have a difficult first round assignment, paired in Group D along with Egypt and Mali.

They also come into the tournament on the back of a poor start to the group phase of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, having been held at home by Uganda in October and then beaten by Egypt in Alexandria in November.

Ironically, both those countries are also in their Nations Cup group.

"The team has been creating a lot of chances but not been able to convert them, as much as I would need them to," coach Avram Grant said before they set off from the United Arab Emirates, where they have been preparing the last fortnight. (Editing by Ian Chadband)

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