Africa Cup of Nations 2012 – Tactic Talk: Zambia punish misfiring Black Stars

Zambia produced one of the shocks of the tournament to book their place in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, with a 1-0 win over Ghana. In a result which sees one of the tournament favourites crash out at the semi-final stage, in a game where four-time champions Ghana will look to missed opportunities as the inquest begins into their exit from a tournament where the Black Stars were well placed in their quest for a fifth Africa Cup of Nations triumph.

Entering the match as strong favourites, the match could have taken a more predictable narrative from the early stages, with Ghana awarded a penalty just seven minutes in. Al-Ain striker Asamoah Gyan would step up to take the spot-kick, only to see his effort saved by Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene. On a frustrating night for the striker, Gyan, currently on loan from Sunderland, was not alone in struggling in front of goal.

As Gyan failed to convert a host of chances, before being withdrawn after 75 minutes, those supporting him in attack also failed to make the breakthrough. Dominating in possession, Andre Ayew looked to link with brother Jordan, but to no avail, as both spurned chances to break the deadlock, with Jordan Ayew failing to convert after combining with his sibling. As a stubborn Zambian resistance stood firm, their opponents would be punished for their lack of clinical edge in the final third, in stunning fashion.

Introduced at half-time, Young Boys striker Emmanuel Mayuka stole the show for Zambia 13 minutes from time. From Isaac Chansa’s pass, Mayuka turned John Boye before firing into the bottom corner to give Zambia the advantage. With Ghana left to chase the game in the closing minutes, the Black Stars found themselves hindered further, with Derek Boateng seeing red for a second bookable offence late on as Zambia held on for a famous victory.

With Zambia through to face Ivory Coast in the final, Herve Renard’s side again find themselves the overwhelming underdogs ahead of the showpiece. With the Ghanian side showing only glimpses of the potential within a side littered with experience in major European leagues, Zambia have shown, along with an opportunistic nature when called upon, that organisation is key to a successful campaign in international competition. However, as Ghana begin to inspect their failure, many will feel this result is simply key players failing to produce their best form on a regular basis and seizing the opportunity presented to the team.

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