The Africa Cup of Nations has almost reached its zenith. The two final contenders will be determined tomorrow when Nigeria squares off against Mali in the first semifinal, and Burkina Faso takes on Ghana in the second.
Here are three players that will dominate the outcome of the semifinals.
John Mikel Obi
The Nigerian midfielder is the biggest profile on the Super Eagles due to his lengthy tenure with Chelsea.
He has become an indispensable part of Chelsea’s roster and recently signed a deal that keeps him in London until 2017.
Mikel is only 25 years old, but he has already won every club trophy he could possibly get his hands on. His experience in big games is invaluable, and it was much to his credit that Nigeria was able to upset Cote d’Ivoire in the quarterfinal.
He is one of the best defensive anchors in the world, and he also has the agility and the offensive fibers to contribute on the attacking end.
Mali will not be able to stop Mikel and that’s going to determine the outcome of the semifinal.
Ogude missed the quarterfinal with a suspension but will be back for the semifinal against Mali. However, Futaa.com claims that coach Stephen Keshi might keep Ogude out of the lineup because he doesn’t want to alter the winning team.
That would be a mistake as the Nigerian side will be in need of Ogude’s skill set.
He has a very aggressive style of play, which explains his suspension, but he also has ball control, and he’s fully capable of making decisive passes.
A midfield consisting of both Mikel and Ogude would be too much for Mali to handle.
In the summer of 2010, Gyan missed the crucial penalty following Luis Suarez’s handball. This tournament is his opportunity to make up for the miss that cost Ghana a spot in the semifinal.
Penalty misses aside, Gyan is one of the deadliest strikers on any team in this tournament.
Burkina Faso has only conceded one goal in four games during the preliminary stages and the quarterfinal, so a goal getter like Gyan is going to be imperative if Ghana is going to advance to the final.