African Cup of Nations Reaches Semifinal Stage

Michael KwamboCorrespondent IFebruary 5, 2008

Hosts Ghana rode to the semi-finals of the 2008 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations with a deserved 2-1 win over the over-confident Super Eagles of Nigeria. 

But they will face the Indomitable Lions, who have gotten their claws back after edging Tunisia 3-2 in extra time.

The favourites Ivory Coast—so far the most composed team with almost an all-round capability—were emphatic in their quarter-final annihilation of Guinea, hitting them 5-0.  They will play defending champions Egypt on Thursday, in the second match played at the Kumasi grounds. 

The Pharaohs edged a determined Angola, 2-1. Angola had a revelation this tournament in Manucho—a free-scoring spirit who is set for Old Trafford after being signed by Manchester United's Alex Fergusson.

The Ghana–Cameroon encounter is once again being billed as the final before the final, although both teams need to polish up their act.  They both have scrapped through to this stage with performances well below their capability, and both must raise their game.

Cameroon will be hard-pressed, having played a gruelling quarterfinal against Tunisia that went into extra-time just three days before the semifinal—a showdown with a team that has the advantage of an extra a day off.  This is one game in which the Lions will need a hero. 

Etoo looked tired and legless in the last match, and who could blame him? The Barca sensation has had to lift the Lions from the brink of disaster numerous times, scoring a record 16 goals to get them where they are now.  He definitely needs a lot of support up front which so far has not manifested—something for veteran coach Otto Pfister to ponder. 

The Cameroon defence has not been very impressive, with captain Rigobert Song showing signs of aging. Song can be held responsible for quite a few costly blunders—especially the one that let Tunisia equalise.  He dilly-dallied with an easy clearance, not even under pressure, and conceded a corner upon whose rebound Chikhaoui pounced—to send the game into extra time.

The second semi between holders Egypt and Ivory Coast will be another match to watch, as both teams have shown a thirst for goals, and definitely need a match-winner to carry the day. Pundits favor the Ivorian Elephants, judging them by their play so far and given that  they have a score to settle, having lost the championship two years ago to the Egyptian Pharaohs in Cairo.

The action kicks off Thursday from 1700hrs GMT.