Ghana gallops to semis
Ghana will face the winner between Togo and Burkina Faso in the semifinals on Wednesday after the Black Stars scored a massive result that kept their bid alive for a first Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) title since 1982.
Despite making their fourth consecutive last-four qualification, coach Kwesi Appiah’s side was handed an assignment by a gutsy Cape Verde side to ponder if they were ready to justify their rating as one of the favourites at the 29th edition of the Afcon.
The Black Stars sat on a knife’s edge for almost the entire second half as the Blue Sharks threatened to push yesterday’s quarterfinal into extra time.
Somehow, Cape Verde’s search for an equaliser turned into agony when Harrison Afful ran the field length to seal it at the death after every one, including the goalkeeper, had left the goal unattended.
The second half was undoubtedly the most exhilarating compared with the first, when the attacks were a bit sporadic between the two sides.
The islanders came out again yesterday adopting the same strategy that had boosted their fairy tale run in the tournament so far.
Coach Lucio Antunes’ side maintained their positional discipline in the system that transformed into a 4-3-3 formation each time they surged forward.
However, they were the first who went on the offensive and on one occasion Ramos Heldon squandered a neatly built move early in the opening half when he ballooned on the edge of the Ghanian goal area.
Heldon, the scorer of the goal that earned his side a place in the quarterfinals, later fashioned out a solo run, but his left-foot drive sailed wide.
Despite an early attack by the minnows, the Black Stars kept their cool and retaliated through their patient build-ups that often received an injection on speed on the wing through Christian Atsu and Albert Adomah.
Adomah was later replaced by Mubarak Wakaso as a way of maintaining pace to counter the hard-running Cape Verde attacking midfielders.
Their lone striker, Asamoah Gyan, was well policed by the non-compromising pair of the two Fernandos, Neves and Varela, who dealt well with every aerial that was delivered into their goal area.
For his part, Gyan held off on the ground and waited for support from his attacking midfielders.
The United Arab Emirates-based striker proved his worth early in the second half when he forced defender Carlos Tavares to concede a penalty under pressure.
In respect of his late mother, who advised him to stay far from penalty kicks after his miss during the 2010 Fifa World Cup quarterfinals, Wakaso converted from the spot kick.
Barely after they celebrated the 52nd-minute goal, Ghana defence came under siege from persistent Blue Shark attacks and they had their goalkeeper, Abdul-Fatawu Dauda, to thank for not having succumbed to the bombardment of shots.
This included a block from a last-minute curler from Heldon in injury time.
Despite their never-say-die attitude, the islanders will regret certain moments when they faked fouls as such actions led to unnecessary stop-starts.
Ghana held off well under the circumstances to confirm their semifinal ticket to Mbombela in four days’ time.
In the end, the crowd of 22 850 who pitch yesterday, were left yearning for me.