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Jan 18, 2008

Ghana's Ayew bids to follow in father's footsteps

ACCRA, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Young Ghana talent Dede Ayew hopes to emulate his father, former African Footballer of the Year Abedi Pele, and help Ghana win the African Nations Cup.

Ayew, who made his league debut at French club Olympique Marseille this season, is expected to start when Ghana host Guinea in the tournament's opening match in Accra.

At 18, Ayew has a chance to mirror the first major achievement of his father, who was a 17-year-old prodigy when Ghana last won the Nations Cup in 1982.

'I think we can do something great for this country in this tournament,' the junior Ayew said on Friday as the Black Stars put their final touches together for the Sunday's game.

'I would obviously want to achieve the same as my father did. We are taking it all very seriously. As hosts we know we have to get off to a good start and to qualify for the next round.'

He added: 'Guinea have a great team and we know Sunday's match will be difficult but we have the fighting spirit and the people behind us to go on and do great things at this tournament.'

Ayew won the first of his four caps last year but all his appearances for Ghana have come as a substitute. The absence of injured captain Stephen Appiah in midfield means Ayew is likely to earn promotion to coach Claude Le Roy's starting line-up.

'We had all the opportunity to prepare properly in Dubai where we had a good training camp, which was great to build our team spirit,' said Ayew.

'At the moment it has all gone off very well and if it continues like this we can go very far.'

Despite his tender years and the pressure of carrying a famous family name, Ayew shrugged off the burden of expectation on the tournament hosts.

'I don't think we players feel the pressure as much as our coach,' he said. 'We know what we have to do, go out on the pitch and do what we know best.'

Abedi Pele was a three-time African Footballer of the Year, helped Marseille win the European Cup and captained Italian Serie A club Torino.

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