AFCON 2013: Biggest Keys for Burkina Faso vs. Ghana Semifinal Match

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2013

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 02:  Wakaso Mubarak (2nd R) of Gana celebrates scoring a penalty with tean-mates during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Quarter-Final match between Ghana and Cape Verde at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on February 2, 2013 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Burkina Faso and Ghana are both one win away from the Africa Cup of Nations final. For Burkina Faso, it's a surprise after being given very little attention coming into the tournament. Ghana has been one of the top contenders throughout.

That distinct difference will have an impact on the match. The Stallions can enter it free from pressure since few people expected them to make it this far. On the flip side, the Black Stars are facing even more pressure after the Ivory Coast was eliminated, making them the favorite.

Knowing that, let's examine the most important key to success for each side heading into the match. The country that executes better in these areas will advance to play for the championship.


Burkina Faso: Increase Attacking Pressure

Burkina Faso has reached the semifinals thanks to a tremendous defensive effort. The Stallions have allowed just one goal in four matches, and that came in the group stage opener against Nigeria.

With that being said, they will need more offense to beat Ghana.

To this point, they knew it was possible to keep advancing by relying on defense and counterattacks. While staying strong at the back remains important, they will need more than a few break chances to keep pace with the new tournament favorites.

The attack took a hit when striker Alain Traore suffered a thigh injury, but still features Moumouni Dagano, who's scored 24 goals in 60 international appearances. It will be up to him to jump-start the offense on Wednesday.

Ultimately, Burkina Faso can't expect to spend the entire match defending without Ghana taking advantage eventually. They have to push forward as much as possible to take some heat off the back line and potentially pull off an upset.


Ghana: Control Possession and Pace

Ghana is favored in the second semifinal, and rightfully so. The Black Stars are the most talented team. If they play up to their usual standards, they should be able to clinch a berth in the final. The Ivory Coast are proof that it's easier said than done, however.

It's a match where Ghana must impose its will on Burkina Faso. It has to be relentless on the attack because it will probably take some time to break down the defense.

Nevertheless, if they can control possession and create a lot of chances, a few will find the net.

As always, the attack begins with Asamoah Gyan. The Black Stars' captain, who has 31 international goals, teams up with Kwadwo Asamoah to give Ghana a formidable attacking duo. The more they touch the ball in the attacking third, the better its chance of winning will be.

Ghana should also push for an early goal. If it allows Burkina Faso to hang around for a while, the underdogs' confidence will grow. The Black Stars must be the more aggressive group throughout and it will pay off in the end.