Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
February 2, 2013
Cape Verde has undoubtedly been the surprise package of AFCON 2013 so far. They began their giant killing run in qualifiers by eliminating continental giants Cameroon. The Blue Sharks, on their maiden appearance in AFCON final stage were handed a dodgy draw in Group A. They were the highest ranked team in the group but their group also contained hosts South Africa along with Morocco and Angola, two experienced AFCON nations.
The tiny island nation, which has a population of just 500,000, opened their AFCON campaign against the hosts and restricted Bafana Bafana to earn a goal-less draw and their first ever points. The chances were few and far between with Platini wasting the best chance of the game in first half. Platini didn’t repeat his mistake against Morocco in the second match, scoring the Sharks’ first ever AFCON goal just after the half hour mark to give a 1-0 lead. Cape Verde played an admirable match against the Atlas Lions, boasting of stars from top European leagues but couldn’t prevent a 78th minute equalizer. The 1-1 draw meant that they were still in with a chance to qualify to knock-out round.
Things were looking grim for the Blue Sharks with 9 minutes left on the clock as they trailed 0-1 against Angola after an own goal by captain Nando. On 81st minute defender Fernando Varela scored a header to level the score. Angola piled forward in search of a second goal which allowed substitute Heldon to score the match winner deep into injury time. Cape Verde, the smallest nation to ever qualify for AFCON had defied all odds to reach the quarter-final on their first appearance.
Luís Carlos Almada Soares nicknamed “Platini” has been one of the stand-out performers for the Blue Sharks in AFCON 2013. Playing just behind two center-forwards in Cape Verde’s 4-3-1-2 Platini has found the net once and has been a constant threat for opponent defences so far. Lille winger Ryan Mendes, Cape Verde’s top scorer in qualifiers, is another player from Cape Verde team to watch out. Coach Lucio Antunes (who doubles up as an air traffic controller) declared his side had achieved their objective by reaching the quarter-final so there will be no added pressure on the Blue Sharks and one cannot rule out more upsets coming from them.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Vozinha; Gégé, Fernando Varela, Nando, Carlitos; Marco Soares, Toni Varela, Babanco; Platini, Julio Tavares, Ryan Mendes
African powerhouse Ghana has maintained their consistency of recent AFCON editions and reached the knock-out rounds in a reasonably easy fashion. The Black Stars have reached the semi-final in each of last three editions and on paper they are one of the favourites for the 2013 version as well.
Ghana opened their group B campaign against Congo DR and were expected to snap up three points. The Black Stars were on course for a win by 50th minute as Juventus midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah played a stellar role in helping his team to a 2-0 lead. Asamoah assisted Emmanuel Agyemang Badu opening goal before getting his name on the score-sheet on 50th minute. Three minutes after Ghana’s second goal the script began to change as Tresor Mputu flicked in Congo’s first goal. 16 minutes later Congo pulled level when Dieudonne Mbokani converted a spot kick. Buoyed by their double salvo Congo created more chances as the match came close to an end and could have won it if not for an excellent save from Ghana custodian.
Eager to make up for their trip in the opening match Ghana started their second game against Mali brightly. Fortune was on their side as well when Fatau Dauda escaped a sending off on 6th minute despite handling the ball outside penalty box. The Black Stars didn’t create a host of chances against a disciplined Mali side but were rarely threatened in defence, on the flip side. 22 year old Espanyol winger Mubarak Wakaso slotted away a penalty kick seven minutes before the breather which would eventually prove to be the match winner.
Needing a win to guarantee their progress to quarter-final Ghana dished out their best performance of AFCON 2013 in their third match against Niger. Captain Asamoah Gyan led from the front with a goal and two assists as the Black Stars ran out 3-0 winners. Gyan opened the scoring on 6th minute thanks to an assist from Albert Adomah. 17 minutes later his assist to Christian Atsu would double Ghana’s lead. The result was out beyond doubt four minutes into second half when Gyan’s header was parried by Niger goal-keeper straight into John Boye’s path, who made no mistakes from close range.
The Black Stars will be buoyed by their recent form. They have lost only once since getting knocked out of AFCON 2012, too current African champions Zambia in a World Cup qualifier. Their run has included victories against Egypt, Tunisia as well as their quarter-final opponents Cape Verde. Ghana faced Cape Verde in November last year and dominated the proceedings in a 1-0 win with Wakaso scoring his first senior goal for his country.
Ghana is likely to field a 4-5-1 formation with Gyan as the lone striker. Regardless of the manager, the Black Stars have opted for this formation for past few years and are well adapted to it. Wakaso, who was suspended against Niger, will be back against Cape Verde.
Possible Starting XI (4-5-1): Fatau Dauda; John Paintsil, John Boye, Jerry Akaminko, Kwadwo Asamoah; Derek Boateng, Albert Adomah, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Wakaso Mubarak; Asamoah Gyan
Ghana 2-0 Cape Verde
Cape Verde might have upset all odds by qualifying for the quarter-final but their opponents have far too much quality and experience at this level to falter against the Blue Sharks. This may turn out to be a one sided encounter.