Ghana’s Black Stars are bracing up for tougher challenges ahead as they play hosts Equatorial Guinea in the semi-final match of the Africa Cup of Nations in Malabo tomorrow.
After four successive appearances at the penultimate stage, the Ghanaians are in a familir situation. But after three failures, Avram Grant and his charges are determined to clear tomorrow’s hurdle for another appearance in the final with a fifth continental triumph in sight.
In 2008, the Stars were stopped by Cameroun on home soil, but two years later they braved the storm to reach the final in Angola for the first time since the 1992 tournament in Senegal.
Hope of making it past the semi-finals in both the 2012 and 2013 tournaments failed, leaving the Stars still looking for solutions to end this unpleasant situation and possibly the search for an AFCON title in this millenium.
As if this psychological problem is not enough, the Stars are also fretting over the fitness of their captain, Asamoah Gyan, who was salvagely hacked down by the Guinean goalkeeper in their quarter-final match last Sunday.
The result of a scan conducted on the skipper yesterday is eagerly being awaited to know if he can lead the team for this all-important battle.
Coach Avram Grant is worried about the uncertainty surrounding the fitness of his captain, considering how important he is to the team, but yesterday, he told the Graphic Sports, “we will wait for the clearance, but if he is unable to make it. we will play our plan B. Either way, we are psyching ourselves up, just as we did in the previous matches.”
Having played as a team at this competition, with each player who has been presented with the chance of proving his worth, Coach Grant can still come-up with a starting line up and a strategy that will nail the National Thunder, but Gyan’s presence will add an added motivation.
The availability of Gyan is no doubt crucial at this point, given that the only game he missed at this tournament, the Stars lost. That was their opening game against Senegal which the Stars were forced to surrender their 1-0 lead to lose 1-2 through an injury time strike.
That is not the only worry. The Stars must also brace themselves up for a hostile crowd, coming up against the home team, the Nzalang Nacional, or the National Thunder, who have made history by reaching this stage only on their second attempt.
Almost missing out of the tournament, the hosts have made most of their late inclusion, snatching their qualification for the quarter-finals with a stunning 2-0 win against group favourites, Gabon , followed by another dramatic 2-1 win in the quarter-finals against Tunisia, when they trailed 1-0.
It is such dramatic performances that have kept the confidence and self-belief so high in the hosts’ camp that they dare the Black Stars to the showdown tomorrow.
Captain Nsue, who has been an inspiration and available for the clash said “We do respect Ghana a lot because they are one of the big boys in world football, but we do not fear them.
“At this stage, we also want to make history by going all the way and will do all we can as much as possible to win.”
This desire to make history and the eagerness to end the semi-final heartbreak, definitely set the tone for the match on hand, given that there will be drama on either side as happened in the quarter-finals.
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