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Chris Hughton: Ghana Coach Vows to ‘Learn’ as Pressure Grows Ahead of World Cup Qualifying

Ghana head coach Chris Hughton says he will “learn from previous experiences” as speculation surrounding his future with the Black Stars mounts before the start of their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

Hughton, who is preparing the team for matches against Madagascar and Comoros, has been under pressure since the West Africans lost 2-0 to Mexico and 4-0 to the United States in friendlies last month.

Despite the intense speculation the 64-year-old says his mind is fully focused on the task ahead.

“It’s for me as coach to learn from our players’ performances and how we can improve, because ultimately you’re now playing competition games – two World Cup qualifiers,” the former Brighton and Newcastle boss told BBC Africa.

“They’re two games that we must do well in.

“My role as coach of the Black Stars is to get the best results and the best performances from the team. You can’t always get that.

“But you can always learn from your previous experiences, whether it’s good or bad. And, ultimately, I will work as hard as I always do to try to get things the best way that we can.”

Ghana captain Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew – who was left out of the squad that faced Mexico and USA – has been recalled by Hughton for the match at home against Madagascar on 17 November and away to Comoros four days later.

Ayew, 33, is still without a club since leaving Nottingham Forest at the end of last season.

However, he captained the Black Stars at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where Ghana exited at the group stage, and Hughton says the forward is integral to the national set-up.

“Dede Ayew is still a very good player and still somebody that can be the best player in training,” the Irishman added.

“He is somebody that has an added importance because he is captain – he is a very good influence to the younger players that are in the squad. And so it’s not just about his playing ability, it’s for what he means to the squad.”

Ghana will also face Mali, Central African Republic and Chad for a place at the 2026 World Cup, with the winners of Group I guaranteed a place in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Too soon for Black Stars to think about Afcon?

The Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Ivory Coast on 13 January, with Ghana fans hungry for success.

The Black Stars have not won the coveted title since 1982, the last of their four Nations Cup triumphs, and have been drawn alongside Egypt, Cape Verde and Mozambique in Group B.

But Hughton says his players must stay focused on the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign next week.

“It’s great to want to talk about Afcon, but sometimes for coaches it’s difficult because we have two very important games before then,” he said.

“I think if your concentrations are too far past that then you can take your eye off what is in this moment the most important thing – our World Cup qualification games.

“What we would want is to do well in these games, to win these games and to be able to go into Afcon with good momentum. But this [World Cup qualifiers] must come first.”

As for the Nations Cup, Hughton expects to face stiff competition from a number of countries in Ivory Coast.

“Morocco, Egypt, Senegal, Cameroon, Tunisia – at this moment, the level of teams performing in Africa – and in the Africa Cup of Nations – is as strong as it’s ever been,” he added.

“There are so many more players in big clubs in Europe and on the world stage which certainly makes the Afcon tougher for everybody, and also more exciting for everybody.

“We have a wonderful history and wherever you travel and speak about the Black Stars, it’s a world recognised country and football team. And of course, that comes down to the history of the Black Stars.”

Club versus country Afcon dilemmas

Ghana, like so many of the teams who will feature at the Nations Cup early next year, have a host of names playing at some of Europe’s top clubs.

Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey, West Ham’s Mohammed Kudus and Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew will all leave their respective Premier League sides to feature in Ivory Coast, but Hughton says his players are fully focused on representing their country.

“I’ve seen nothing to say that they are not absolutely fully committed. The spirit that we see in camp is wonderful,” he said.

“And I am incredibly confident that everybody that turns out for the Black Stars is there because he wants to be there and he wants to give his all.”

Hughton believes that coaches across Europe are now more accepting of the situation and that previous club versus country rows have died down.

“Most clubs, head coaches, managers, now accept that when they take an African player there’s a chance that they will lose him for a period during the African Cup of Nations.

“So it’s one very much of the past and I think the modern club and modern technical staff accept that this is going to happen.”

Source : BBC