All bets on Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to make Afcon final

Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are on course to meet in a showpiece final at the African Cup of Nations (Afcon), with only semi-final opponents Mali and Zambia able to prevent the eagerly awaited showdown.

Côte d’Ivoire’s star-studded squad has won all four matches without conceding a goal in its quest for a first cup success in 20 years, while Ghana, losing finalists two years ago, is looking for a fifth title.

Ghana must first beat Zambia, which has enjoyed an impressive Cup campaign so far and is motivated to make the final in Libreville in memory of 25 players and officials who died in a plane crash near the Gabonese capital 19 years ago.

Côte d’Ivoire’s opponent, Mali, is bidding to reach its first final after having beaten co-host Gabon on penalties in the quarterfinals.

Despite scoring eight goals without reply, Côte d’Ivoire has so far failed to find the quality performances expected of Africa’s top-ranked team that contains some of the world’s best players.

Led by Premier League-based stars like captain Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho, the cup favourite is expected to hit top gear at some stage with the gifted generation of players aiming to finally claim international success.

‘Fight to win’
“The most important thing is to go through because we have failed three times in this competition,” said Toure, referring to a runner-up finish in 2006, fourth place in 2008 and a disappointing quarterfinal exit in 2010.

“We have fantastic players and fantastic strikers but we have to fight to win this competition.”

Mali stands in the way of Côte d’Ivoire’s progression to the final after talismanic midfielder Seydou Keita scored the decisive penalty in the quarterfinal shootout following a 1-1 draw with Gabon.

The Malians fell behind against the favoured co-host but refused to surrender and scored a late equalizer to set up extra time. Penalties followed and all five Mali spot kicks hit the back of the net.

That performance suggested the West African side copes well with the underdog tag.

“All the players in my squad are of the highest standard,” Mali coach Alain Giresse said. “They are amazing players and everyone here respects and loves them. Besides, the whole team has played in tournaments in the past and are familiar with the terrain.”

Ghana’s clash with Zambia is tinged with sadness after midfielder Anthony Annan’s mother died last Thursday. Despite the bereavement, Annan decided to stay to help the squad try to win the Cup for the first time since 1982.

Dangerous opponent
“Winning the title would serve as a big honour in memory of my mother,” he said.

The Black Stars squeezed past Tunisia with an extra time goal from Andre Ayew in a 2-1 win but the extra half-hour of play and a delayed arrival in the Equatoguinean city of Bata for the semi-final could take its toll.

Zambia also has special reason to make Sunday’s final in Libreville, the city where it lost a generation of players when their plane plunged into the ocean, killing everyone on board.

In that 1993 crash, Zambia lost probably its best team in its worst sporting disaster, with 18 players and seven officials dying.

The Southern African side topped Group A before crushing Sudan 3-0 in the quarters and is considered a dangerous opponent.

“We don’t have any pressure, we want to beat Ghana to get to the final,” said coach Herve Renard, who wears a lucky white shirt to all his team’s games. “I’m very happy to play the semi-final of the African Cup. We are very proud to be there, we will play at 100% and try to give everything. We don’t want to give up or regret anything.

“Everybody expects a Côte d’Ivoire-Ghana final and everybody thinks it will be a surprise if we get through. Everybody except us. We are not afraid of Ghana. We have a lot of respect for them.” — Sapa-AP

Advertisting

Mkhwebane moves to halt ‘grossly unfair’ impeachment process

Mkhwebane moves to halt ‘grossly unfair’ impeachment process

Chaos theory: How Jürgen Klopp has harnessed the unpredictable

The Liverpool manager has his side playing unstoppable football but it’s the attention to detail off the field that has bred the success

My hardest story: Reporting on being queer in Tunisia

Reporting on queer issues is always tough. But Tunisia was something else

South Africa could use a communist party

The SACP is not building socialism, or even social democracy. Sadly, it has become just another party advancing the politics of patronage
Advertising

Press Releases

Wellcome Trust award goes to UKZN mental health champion

Dr Andr? J van Rensburg, a senior researcher in UKZN's Centre for Rural Health, received the Wellcome Trust Discretionary Award.

MTN gears up to deliver improved customer service

On 28 January, the first batch of MTN contract customers will be migrated onto the new customer service platform.

Request for expression of interest on analysis of quality and outcome indicators for regional and district hospitals in Lesotho

Introduction The Ministry of Health of Lesotho with the support of the World Bank funded Nutrition and Health Systems Strengthening...

MiX Telematics enhances in-vehicle video camera solution

The company has launched the gold MiX Vision Bureau Service, which includes driver-coaching tools to ensure risky driver behaviour can be addressed proactively and efficiently.

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA