2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN): Nigeria, Ghana revive football rivalry at CHAN semis - West African football giants Ghana and Nigeria revive their long-standing rivalry Wednesday when they meet in the semi-finals of the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) at the Free State Stadium in Mangaung, South Africa. PANA reported, however, the showdown will be without their high-profile, foreign-based super stars because this championship is restricted to players in Africa's domestic leagues.
Going by the results from the group stage, the home-based Super Eagles, making their debut in this championship, hold a slight advantage over the Ghana Black stars.
After the surprise 2-1 defeat to Mali in the opening Group A game, Coach Stephen Keshi’s side went on to beat Mozambique 4-2 and downed host South Africa 3-1 to get into the knockout stage.
Against Morocco in the quarter-finals, Nigeria went 3-0 down in the first half but miraculously scored four goals in the second to overwhelm the north Africans 4-3 and secure the semi-final ticket.
On the other hand, Ghana has not been very impressive although it emerged the Group C winner.
The Ghanaians have not scored more than one goal in each of the matches they had played: 1-0 against Congo; 1-1 with Libya and 1-0 against Ethiopia.
Even in the crucial quarter-final match against DR Congo, the Black Stars couldn't go beyond scoring just one goal.
For Ghana, goal scoring has been a problem but the 2009 runner-up has the strongest defence, having conceded just a single goal.
The high-scoring Nigerian side should take advantage of Ghana's lacklustre attack and explore their very tight defence line to get in as many goals as they can in regulation time.
Nigeria has so far scored 12 goals and conceded eight.
Ghana Coach Maxwell Konadu admits: “Our attack has been such that we only manage one goal per match but we have been defending very well. That for me is a sign of a team that is progressing and I don’t think it is a bad thing to defend very well.
“It is also important to score goals but in cases when you score one goal in a match and manage to defend it, that means you will win.”
Nigeria has not beaten Ghana since 2006 when it nicked a 1-0 win in the Group stage of the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Having landed in Bloemfontein for the semi-final, the Super Eagles are aware that they have never had it easy against the Black Stars.
Like their previous meetings, Wednesday's encounter will be unpredictable.
Nigeria's utility player Uzoenyi Ejike, who scored the all-important third goal against Morocco that took the quarter final into extra time before Super Eagles scored a fourth to complete one of the great comebacks in football history, said .'We are on course to win this Championship.'
In the other semi-finals in Bloemfontein, there is no clear favourites between Zimbabwe and Libya.
The two unfamiliar sides pulled off some upsets in the quarter-finals against renowned teams to reach the semis.
While Zimbabwe defeated giant Mali 2-1, Libya salvaged a last-minute 1-1 draw against Congo and in the process reached the semis after winning 4-2 from a penalty shootout.
The fact that very few expected Libya and Zimbabwe to get this far was not lost on Libya’s coach, Spaniard Javier Clemente, who said: “Both sides have 50-50 chances of making it to the final. Any team that gets this far in a tournament has done well and deserves to be respected.
'Libya will not take Zimbabwe lightly and l know the same applies to Zimbabwe, therefore it is likely to be a competitive match with hopefully some entertaining football.”
Zimbabwe coach Ian Gorowa agrees that the scenario that has two sides who were not expected to get this far may just have the right ingredients for a thrilling and competitive match,
'Having come this far, we feel that we may as well go all the way and every team at this stage will believe they can go on and win the ultimate prize. This team is hungry for success and keen to lighten up the country’s mood back in Zimbabwe.
'We are in an open match which either side can win and l hope it will be us celebrating come Wednesday,” said Gorowa.
Preview by Vincent Obi, PANA Editor