Ghana take on Zambia in the semi-final of the 2012 Africa Nations Cup at the 35,000 seat Estadio de Bata, with the Black Stars aiming to get to the final for the second tournament in succession.
There have been comments in the media that Ghana may be lucky to be at this stage, with their football at times unconvincing. In the group stage a 2-0 win over fellow semi-finalists Mali was sandwiched between an unimpressive win over Botswana and a draw with Guinea. The quarter-finals saw the Black Stars needing extra time and a goalkeeping howler to overcome 10-man Tunisia. The anticipation for Ghana to play more exciting football and brush other teams aside may stem from their exhilarating performances at the 2010 World Cup. At this tournament, and arguably feeling the weight of the expectation, the football has been efficient, with the results and progress before excitement.
Zambia should be more rested than Ghana. Their quarter-final was a day earlier in Bata [as was two of their group games], and the Ghanaians will also have had to travel from Gabon. Despite this Ghana will start as favourites against the Chipolopolos, who have impressed in this tournament, scoring eight goals so far.
There is respect for the Copper Bullets within the Black Stars, midfielder Sully Muntari telling CAFOnline.com: Zambia is a strong side and they wouldn’t be here if they were not a good team. They have dangerous players and play as unit. Each team has ambition and we reckon it will not be easy.”
Zambia may also have more freedom to play having met Coach’s Herve Renard objective for the tournament. “There is no more pressure on us,” said Renard, adding: “And now we can dream of going all the way to the final. Ghana are favourites, but we will be prepared for them.”
Stevanovic though believes his squad has the character to meet the challenge: “The most important thing is the moral and personality. We have all that and are ready for the game.”
The Coach has confirmed he has a full squad to pick from, with captain John Mensah recovering from the injury picked up against Tunisia. Mensah will be vital in defence against the high scoring Chipolopolos, but has contributed up front as well, scoring two goals, including Ghana’s 100th in the Cup of Nations. Alongside him will probably be the promising and ever-present young centre-back John Boye. Behind them will be goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, another ever-present in his first tournament. Four other Black Stars have started every match. Anthony Annan, who has been tidy in midfield, the impressive box-to-box midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, the exciting Andre Ayew on the wing and Asamoah Gyan, their talismanic striker. All will need to be on form to gain victory over The Copper Bullets.
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