Ghana waits in anticipation


Victory over archrivals Nigeria with 10 men has increased the confidence level of Ghanaians considerably about the Black Stars ability to go all the way in the tournament, but Cameroon does represent a major threat to the country’s ambition.

The semifinal meeting is essentially a meeting between two of Africa’s most successful national teams in different eras. While Ghana bossed the African game in the early years, winning four titles between 1963 and 1982, Cameroon have been the latter-day masters, winning two titles in the 80s and then back-back titles in 2000 and 2002.

And the frightening thing for Ghana is that en route to all their four titles, Cameroon have beaten the host nation. In 1984 they defeated hosts Ivory Coast in the group stages to seal their place in the knockouts. In 1988, under Claude LeRoy, now in charge of Ghana, they beat hosts Morocco in the semis.

Nigeria were also hosts that fell to Cameroon, this time in the Final at the 2000 Nations Cup on penalties. And in 2002 they beat hosts Mali on their way to a fourth title in Bamako.

Against that background, the Cameroonians arrived in Accra in confident mood, declaring they are ready to spoil the Ghana party.

“No-one rated us before this competition, but we have shown a strong mentality. It will be difficult against the hosts but we are a strong side and will be ready,” Indomitable Lions captain Rigobert Song said.

The Cameroonians have been as loud in their protests about everything as they have been in confidence. They refused the hotel allotted them in Accra and opted to stay at another one in the centre of the city. At their last training session at the match venue, coach Otto Pfister ranted and raved about the quality of the pitch.

The pitch was also an issue Ghana coach LeRoy complained about, but he has more significant issues to deal with. Captain John Mensah, rock solid at the back for the Black Stars, is out through suspension, while striker Asamoah Gyan is a major doubt. That, though, has not dampened the confidence of the coach and his stand-in captain Michael Essien.

“We have to be there on Sunday in the Final. There is no way we can be anywhere else,” LeRoy said.

"Our plan is to go all the way to the Final and win it and I don't think Cameroon can stop us from reaching that goal," Essien adds. "With the way we have played in this tournament so far, victory will surely be ours."

Cameroon, led by tournament top scorer Samuel Eto’o with five goals, have found the back of the net regularly, but Ghana’s strength lies in its midfield, which has provided good cover for the defence and still contributed goals.

And as always the atmosphere at the Ohene Djan Stadium for a game between two sides with eight Nations Cup titles between them, two coaches who used to be on the opposite side, one with a record of spoiling the party for the host, the other with the most appearances in the final game of a Nations Cup, should be electrifying.