Former Ghana right-back John Paintsil claims that the Africa Cup of Nations is a tougher competition than the World Cup for African teams.
The ex-Fulham man represented the Black Stars at both the Afcon and the World Cup, and was part of the squad that reached the quarter-final with the West African giants in 2010.
Looking back over his career, and comparing his experiences in both competitions, Paintsil has explained why he believes the Nations Cup is the more challenging competition.
“I think the Africa Cup of Nations is stronger than the World Cup,” he said, “because Africans, we know ourselves, and the competition is very high.
“I’m not going to talk about the officiating side [of things], because the officiating is fantastic, but when we’re playing African countries against each other, we call it a derby, a local derby, and it’s very different—it pushes us.”
Paintsil, who amassed 89 caps for Ghana, represented the Black Stars at five Afcon tournaments as the West Africans sought to end their wait for continental gold.
He was a semi-finalist on three occasions, in 2008, 2012 and 2013, but missed out on reaching the final each time.
He was also present for Ghana’s first two World Cup campaigns, helping the Stars reach the Last 16 in 2006 and the quarter-finals four years later.
“[The Afcon] gives us more strength to work and to prepare for the World Cup, but for me, the Afcon is always tougher than the World Cup itself,” he added.
“It gives the players experience, and an idea of competing in these tournaments,” the former wideman concluded, “so for [Ghana], the Nations Cup pushed us to where we got to in the World Cup.”
By the early 80s, Ghana were arguably Africa’s most successful footballing nation, having won four Afcon titles including back-to-back successes in 1963 and 1965.
However, after subsequent victories in 1978 and 1982, the West Africans embarked on a near-four-decade wait for the title that shows no sign of ending.
As well as being defeated finalists in 1968 and 1970, they lost in the showpiece match in 1992, 2010—months before their outstanding World Cup showing—and in 2015.