What: African Cup of Nations Semi-final
Who: Ghana vs Nigeria
When: Thursday, 28th January 2010, at 16:00 GMT
Where: Estádio 11 de Novembro, Luanda, Angola

Black Stars Looking to Return to Glory

It has been 28 long years since Ghana last won the African Cup of Nations. On that occasion they defeated the host nation Libya in the final to win the cup for a then record  four times. This time the Ghanaians would love nothing more than beating their arch rivals on their way to winning their fifth African trophy, especially after the country’s youngsters won the Under-20 World Cup for the first time, achieving something no other African nation has.
The Black stars started this tournament with a disastrous loss to the Ivory Coast but since then they recovered and won their next two games, first Ghana beat Burkina Faso in  the last match of Group B to qualify for the quarter-finals, where they then beat the host nation, Angola. Considering their list of absentees, reaching the semi-final will be  classed as a good achievement by Milovan Rajevac’s boys, but considering their opponents’ performances in this tournament, the Ghanaians know that with more effort accompanied  by a greater focus on counter-attacks and fast transition from defence to attack, and with a little bit of luck, they can pass the Nigerian challenge and qualify for the final  for the first time in 18 years.

Super Eagles to Silence their Critics

Nigeria have always underachieved in the African Cup of Nations. For a country that has been in the semi-final no less than 12 times a return of just two titles is astonishingly poor. Shaibu Amodu’s boys would love nothing more than to claim a third title for their country and what would be for most of them a first title at international level.
Even though the Super Eagles have reached the semi-final, their performance has been far below expectations, and some may consider them the luckiest team amongst the final four. Nigeria started the tournament poorly with a 3-1 loss to defending champions Egypt, but defeated Benin and Mozambique in their next group games to secure qualification. In the  quarter-final stage they beat a resilient Zambia side thanks to the Zambians bad luck and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama’s brilliance. The Super Eagles know, however, that a win  against Ghana will silence their critics and put them on the right track to their third title, something that their fans have been anticipating since 1994.

Recent form
Ghana 1-3 Ivory Coast
Ghana 1-0 Burkina Faso
Ghana 1-0 Angola
Nigeria 1-3 Egypt
Nigeria 1-0 Benin
Nigeria 3-0 Mozambique
Nigeria 0-0 Zambia (Nigeria won 5-4 on penalties)

Key absences
Ghana: Michael Essien (knee)

Nigeria: Apam Onyekachi (suspended)

Players to watch
Ghana: Gyan Asamoah scored his country’s only goal in the quarter-final match against Angola. The Rennes striker created many chances for his team and looked dangerous every  time he touched the ball. With his goalscoring abilities along with his speed and power, Asamoah is going to be Ghana’s most dangerous man on the pitch.
Nigeria: Peter Odemwingie has been Nigeria’s most consistent player in this tournament so far, scoring two goals from a total of five scored by the Super Eagles. The Lokomotiv  Moscow striker not only has the ability to score but also creates many chances for his team-mates, and coach Shaibu Amodu can look to him as Nigeria’s target man.

Match prediction
Ghana’s performance is actually improving from one match to the next while Nigeria’s has been less than impressive. However, experience is something that is really needed for an  occasion like this, and this is something Nigeria have and Ghana lack due to the huge list of esablished stars left at home.

Ghana will surely play in a more defensive style, using counter-attack as a way to expose the weak Nigerian defence, while Nigeria will try to kill the game early to avoid going into extra-time where their fitness might not help them. Nigeria should edge what promises to be a very close contest. Perhaps 1-0 or 2-1 to the Super Eagles.


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