Franceville - Ghana star striker Asamoah Gyan has said being a marked man any time his country is in action has shown what a great a player he is.
The former Rennes striker, nicknamed ‘Baby Jet’, was shackled by the Mali defence for most of Saturday’s Africa Cup of Nations Group D match only for him to conjure up a superb free kick in the 63rd minute to spark a Black Stars win.
In the opening Group D clash against Botswana, skipper Mompeti Thuma ensured ‘Baby Jet’ did not cruise and even spoke of the referee 'over protecting' the Black Stars hit man.
Gyan was a doubt for the Mali match after he limped out of his team’s training in Ngouni on Thursday but coach Goran Stevanovic insisted on playing the striker, who repaid his faith with another match-winning performance.
"Everyone who plays against Ghana, comes out strongly to stop Asamoah Gyan," said the Al Ain striker, who is on loan from English Premier League club Sunderland.
"I have been the country’s lone striker for the past six years, it shows how great I am.
"I have to take responsibilities and I did so by scoring even when it seemed that I have been shut out of the game."
"There was a doubt whether I will be fit for the match against Mali, but the medical staff did a fantastic job on me.
"I’m playing through a pain barrier. It was the same in 2008, but the team have confidence in me, they know what I am capable of.
"I’m a Ghanaian and I have to sacrifice for my country.
Gyan has scored crucial goals for Ghana at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups - but also missed the last minute penalty against Uruguay that would have taken Ghana into the 2010 World Cup semi-final - as well as the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola, where a youthful Black Stars went all the way to the final.
"My confidence is back after my goal. That is what happens to a striker," he said after his goal against Mali on Saturday.
However, the striker has yet to win any silverware with his country since he made his debut in 2005 but on arriving here he expressed his confidence that they could end that drought.
"We won’t put any pressure on ourselves," said Gyan.
"We are prepared and highly motivated and it is left for us to deliver. And I have confidence in the Black Stars."
On Saturday, Mali held their own against the Ghanaians in the first half, only for the Black Stars led by Gyan to move up a gear after the interval and score twice for their second win in as many matches.
"We had a bit of difficulty in the first half and we were a bit slow," admitted the 25-year-old forward, who has fully recovered from a hamstring injury.
"The boys showed great character and in the second half, we changed tactics by putting pressure on them to make mistakes.
"This was an important victory and we hope to continue to make Ghana proud by winning our games.
"However, any talk about the final or the cup is premature at this stage."
Ghana take on another west African rival Guinea in their final first round game on Wednesday knowing they cannot afford any slips in a group that is still wide open with even bottom team Botswana still in the reckoning, even if only mathematically.
"We expect a very difficult game against Guinea. We’re on six points and Guinea also want to be on six points to stand any chance of staying in this competition," said Gyan.
"We have quality players and we are ready for any team."