Johannesburg - UEFA Champions League final loser Thomas
Partey of Atletico Madrid hopes to become a winner this week and help Ghana
qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Partey came off the bench in Milan last Saturday, but could
not prevent Madrid neighbours Real winning the European club football showpiece
on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
However, his first national squad call-up should end happily
as Ghana visit Mauritius, an island state they trounced 7-1 last June when
qualifying for Gabon began.
Partey arrived in Accra Tuesday boosted by recent praise
from hard-to-please Atletico coach and former Argentina star Diego Simeone.
"Thomas is on his way to becoming a top footballer and
I hope to help him achieve that goal," Simeone said of the 22-year-old
"He is developing as a footballer all the time and,
although young, has strength, movement and can play between the lines."
In the hyper-competitive Spanish La Liga, Partey made 13
appearances last season for third-place Atletico, including three starts.
An astute distributor of the ball, the Ghanaian lists
Manchester City star and Ivory Coast captain Yaya Toure among the midfielders
who have inspired him.
Also read: Madrid and Atletico players vie for final Euro 2016 spots
The Black Stars welcome back Swansea midfielder Andre 'Dede'
Ayew, who will lead the team in the absence of injured captain and striker
Ghana are among 10 nations who could secure places at the
2017 finals after four days of qualifying, which start Thursday in the
The Black Stars have destiny in their own hands, as do
Algeria, Cameroon, record seven-time Cup of Nations winners Egypt and Senegal.
Victories will place Cameroon and Ghana in unassailable
positions while Algeria, Egypt and Senegal need draws to move beyond the reach
Cameroon, who took Euro 2016 hosts France to the wire Monday
before losing a friendly 3-2 in Nantes, have dropped captain Stephane Mbia for
an away clash with Mauritania.
Algeria play Seychelles without injured midfield stars Riyad
Mahrez, a key figure in the sensational English Premier League title triumph of
Leicester City, and Yacine Brahimi.
School examinations prevented teenage Egypt star Ramadan
Sobhy being called up for the trip to Tanzania in a group where three-time
champions Nigeria are out of contention.
The Super Eagles are idle this weekend as planned opponents
Chad withdrew halfway through the qualifiers due to a lack of funds.
Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali
and Zimbabwe could also secure qualification if they win and get some help from
Minnows Guinea-Bissau can book a first appearance at the
biennial African football showpiece if they win at home against Zambia and
Congo Brazzaville lose in Kenya.
Zimbabwe can return to the big time after a 10-year absence
provided they defeat visiting Malawi and regular Cup of Nations qualifiers
Guinea do not win in Swaziland.
Among those set to start for Zimbabwe will be midfielder
Khama Billiat, who was voted South African Footballer of the Season this week
after helping Mamelodi Sundowns become champions.For
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