Ghana are through to the semifinals of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations with a 2-0 win over heavy underdogs Cape Verde in Saturday's semifinal.
Yet, as strong as the Black Stars might seem at the moment, they still have plenty to prove if they are to take home to the title in South Africa this year.
Their quarterfinal victory came as a result of some less-than-inspiring circumstances, with a dubious penalty and a late runaway goal the only difference between the two teams. And once you factor in a fantastic game from Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda, this one truly was much closer than the scoreline suggests.
Ghana's entire AFCON tournament has been tighter than it suggests.
They came into their quarterfinal matchup against Cape Verde as heavy favorites—particularly given the "minnow" status entrusted on their opponents—but had not really been tested at all throughout the group stages of the competition,
And when they were tested, like in the second half against the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they crumbled under the first sign of pressure or resistance.
They know they should have beaten Cape Verde easily in this quarterfinal, and for this one to have been so close surely must have come as a reality check and a wake-up call for Ghana. You'd like to think so anyway, given their supposed attacking dominance.
Credit must be given to the Blue Sharks for their strong performance, but Ghana should never have even let this one be as close as it was. If they truly were as strong and as in control as they suggest at AFCON 2013, this one would never have been as close as it was throughout the match.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said after the win (per BBC Sport):
Our first half was okay, but second half was not one of our best games. Cape Verde dominated in the second half, but the important thing is that we won and are through to the semi-finals...
And that was him playing it down. It really was that close.
Ghana are looking to win their first African Cup title in 31 years after they triumphed over Libya in a penalty shootout back in 1982.
They are in a great position in 2013 to achieve that goal—into the final four of the tournament—and remarkably, they've done it without playing that well.
As mentioned above, they cruised through the group stages—albeit untested—and clearly have the quality right across the pitch to truly leave a mark on the competition. That is, providing they start to play up to their potential in South Africa.
The Black Stars will most likely face an Emmanuel Adebayor-led Togo in the semifinals of the tournament, and they'll certainly need to step it up a gear if they want to win that one.
They haven't really got going in either attack or defense consistently here—which is a positive thing in a way, but also a tentative cause for concern as well.
It's a good thing for Ghana in that there's still plenty of potential to reach. If this is where they've reached without playing their best, imagine what they can do when they are playing their best?
Two goals conceded in four matches and they're playing poorly?
Ghana at their optimum is therefore a scary proposition and something that fans of the Black Stars will no doubt be hoping to see in the next round.
However, it needs to be a tentative cause for concern because, in reality, Ghana don't have any more time to find that potential and consistent performance.
They've had four matches so far and haven't really produced it; now they must find it, reach it and open it up effectively on either Burkina Faso or Togo in a few days' time.
Which is possible, but seemingly unlikely given what we've witnessed from the African heavyweights so far in South Africa this year.
Ghana must step up in their semifinal or they will most likely be out and left to rue what was one of their best chances to break a 31-year trophy drought.
Which, as it stands, is one heck of an opportunity for Ghana.
But it's all on their shoulders now.
Step up or go home. It's as simple as that.
Do Ghana have what it takes to win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations?
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