ZAMBIA
v
GHANA

Estadio de Bata, Bata
February 8th

***

Andre Ayew’s goal helped Ghana get past a resolute Tunisia side in quarter-final. The Black Stars will now square off against Zambia, who dispatched Sudan 3-0 in the first semi-final.

ZAMBIA

 

After a 16-year absence, Zambia is once again back in the top-4 of AFCON. In 1995, a hastily assembled team, still reeling from the shock of losing most of the first team players in a tragic plane crash, became everyoneai??i??s sentimental favourite as they travelled to the final, unexpectedly. The Copper Bullets had hit the headlines for the wrong reason in the last few days. Some players broke the curfew hours and went out to party,while Clifford Mullenga was sent home for refusing to apologize to the management.

Zambia did not show any sign of internal strife as they overcame Sudan 3-0 after a clinical display. The Western Africans dominated possession from the starting whistle and it wasn’t a surprise when Stoppila Sunzu took advantage of poor defending from Sudan to head Zambia ahead 15 minutes into the match. Despite dominating the proceedings for long parts of the first half, Zambia did not manage to increase their lead.

The match was almost done and dusted six minutes after the hour mark when Zambia were awarded a penalty and their opponents were reduced to ten men. Skipper Chris Katango stepped up the take the penalty only to see it saved on first attempt but the rebound was kind enough for him to slot in. Katongoai??i??s third goal of AFCON 2012 meant the final result was a mere formality. Substitute James Chamanga put the icing on the cake with a peach of a goal four minutes before the final whistle. Zambiaai??i??s victory released mass hysteria among football fans and two fans were reportedly killed in accidents resulting from wild celebrations.

For the Copper Bullets, Joseph Musonda has been a rock at the heart of defence. Custodian Kennedy Mweene has also played his part perfectly till now and has made several crucial saves in four matches. 22 year-old Stopilla Sunzu has shown maturity beyong his years in central midfield. He has played the role of a link-man perfectly and topped his perfect match against Sudan by scoring an opportunistic opening goal. Rainford Kalaba holds the remote control of Zambian attacks and he provided two assists against Sudan.

.

.

Upfront, the partnership of Chris Katongo and Emmanuel Mayuka has bore rich fruits for Herve Renardai??i??s team. The pair has scored five of the eight goals scored by the team. Katongo scored crucial goals in group stages while Mayunkaai??i??s opening goals in the first two matches ensured Zambia were off to a smooth start.

Coach Herve Renard, often dismissed by his critics as being more of a physical trainer than a tactician has also shown impressive tactical awareness during the tournament. His tactics and substitutions have usually been spot on and he didnai??i??t back down from taking a tough stand when his players broke the rules.

Zambia, back on the shores where one of their greatest teams perished one and a half decade ago, mean business and they will be no pushovers in the last four.

Expected Starting XI: Kennedy Mweene, Davies Nkausu, Joseph Musonda, Hichani Himoonde, Stopilla Sunzu, Nathan Sinkala, Chisamba Lungu, Isaac Chansa, Rainford Kalaba, Chris Katongo, Emmanuel Mayuka

GHANA

 

Goran StevanoviAi?? might think that Ghana is all set to break a 30 year-old jinx to become champions of Africa again but the Black Stars have not been very convincing so far. Ghana didnai??i??t have a lot of problems negotiating their way into the quarter-finals but they rarely played the kind of football that was expected from them in the group stage.

They squared off against a plucky Tunisian side in Libreville as clear favourites.Ai??Inspirational captain John Mensah calmed Black Starsai??i?? nerves ten minutes after the kick-off by heading in the first goal. Mensah, who was criticized in some quarters for his red card in the opening match, nursed a thigh injury to get fit just in time for this match. Like Mensah, midfielder Anthony Anan also deserves special mention for his commitment to the cause. Anan decided to stay on and play this match despite learning about the passing away of his mother.

The early goal seemed to have given a shot of confidence to Ghana as they dictated pace of the play for large parts of the first half hour. The 2004 champions slowly settled into the game and had their first chance on 38th minute. Four minutes later, the Carthage Eagles deservingly equalized as Sabeur Khalifa sneaked past the Ghana defence to head a Zouhaier Dhaouadi cross from right-flank. Aymen Mathlouthi was in inspired form under Tunisia goal and made several decisive saves in the second half as the match inched towards extra-time.

Mathlouthi, Tunisiaai??i??s hero for much of the second half turned into a villain in extra-time as he meekly pushed away a cross on Andre Ayewai??i??s path. Ayew made no mistake from five yards out. Any hopes of a comeback were dashed when Aymen Abdennour was sent off for Tunisia three minutes into the second half of extra-time.

.

.

As expected, Ghana did reach last four of AFCON 2012 but their performances have been cagey so far. Gyan has looked rusty after coming back from an injury while Andre Ayew has not managed to replicate his club form for his national team. John Mensah limped off the pitch seven minutes into second half and his fitness remains a doubt for the semi-final clash. Without Mensah in defence, Ghana might face an extremely difficult task to contain a fluid Zambian attack.

One of the biggest issues faced by the Black Stars before their semi-final match is that of fatigue. They played a gruelling match against Tunisia. The ill-tempered clash was made to look ai???like a warai??? according to Ghanaai??i??s assistance coach; perhaps, a bad choice of words. As the match neared towards the final whistle both sets of players were subjected to some heavy tackles. Zambia on the other hand, had one extra-dayai??i??s rest and played a much less taxing match in the quarter-final.

Expected Starting XI: Adam Kwarasey, Asamoah Gyan, John Mensah, Anthony Annan, Samuel Inkoom, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, Andre Ayew, Sulley Muntari, Masahudu Alhassan, Kwadwo Asamoah, John Boye.

TheHardTackle’s Men to Watch Out For

Andre Ayew,Ai??Gyan Asamoah (Ghana), Chris Katongo, Stophila Sunzu (Zambia)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Zambia 2-1 Ghana

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One Response to “Africa Cup Of Nations 2012 Semi-Final Preview: Tired Ghana Take On Upbeat Zambia”

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  1. Nkhokwe says:

    You predicted a 2-1 victory for Zambia against Sudan. Although you wrong on the final score, you were right on the victory. What ever the final score will be, I hope you are right again in your prediction for a Zambian victory over Ghana!

    Nkhokwe. Dallas, Texas, USA