Ghana Black Stars beat Nigeria’s Super Eagles 1-0 for finals ticket
Nigeria arrived in Luanda on Tuesday evening, each player richer by several thousand US dollars thanks to a government sponsored performance-based reward scheme, but they will need more than monetary incentives to get past a young, assured Ghana side in the first semi-finals at the Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda on Thursday ( January 28, 2010).
The Super Eagles have not been anywhere near their best, squeaking through the quarter-finals with a 5-4 post match penalty victory against unlucky Zambia.
Big names like John Obi Mikel, Aiyegbeni Yakubu, Oberfemi Martins and Taiwo Taye have so far had nondescript performances and the general feeling in Luanda is that Nigeria are fortunate to be at the last four stage. But a defiant Nigerian coach Shaibu Amodu said his team could make the final if they did things right.
“Our match against Ghana will be different from our quarterfinal match. The players know what to do, they will be going out for victory. If we play right there will be no problem,” the under fire coach said in Luanda.
Amodu hinted at making some changes to the team by bringing in fresh legs. Nwanko Kanu, the 33-year-old Portsmouth forward, has not seen action the entire tournament and could likely be introduced to add more enterprise to an unimaginative Nigerian attack.
Definitely out of Thursday’s encounter is Nice defender Apam Onyekaji, who was red carded in the quarterfinals. The achieving young Ghana side, anchored by the main architects of their 2009 Fifa under-20 World Cup winning team will fancy their chances of making a first Nations Cup final in 18 years.
Twenty year old Nice midfielder Andre Ayew and 21 year old Udinese midfielder Kwakwo Asamoah have been a stand out for Ghana. “We have confidence in each other and we will just need to be patient and follow the coach’s strategy,” said Ayew, son of Black Stars great Abedi Pele. Established Stade Rennias striker Asamoah Gyan will lead the goal hunt.
Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac may be tempted to bring in experienced Anthony Anan, who has not seen any action in Angola because of injury. The two nations have had a healthy football rivalry with matches closely contested. Out of five Nations Cup meeting between the two, Nigeria have won thrice, Ghana twice and with one result ending in a draw. In all the matches, victory has never been by more than one goal, pointing to another close affair in Luanda on Thursday.
Meanwhile, following the elimination of hosts Angola in the quarterfinals, the organisers, fearing a fall in public interest for the tournament, have urged fans to turn out in large numbers for the semi-finals.
“We are out of the tournament but I am urging fans to continue going to the stadium to ensure this tournament is successfully,” Palanca Negras captain Carlos Alonso made the appeal through local media. African Nations Cup is notorious for poor crowds when the home team is not playing but in contrast the tournament in Angola has recorded good attendance in all four venues. By Charles Nyende in Angola, covering the Africa Cup championship for the Daily Nation of Kenya