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Sports News of Thursday, 7 February 2008

Source: Richard Avornyotse- GNA Sports Desk

Ghana-Cameroon: A tight fixture indeed!

Four time winners Ghana and Cameroon clash Today, Thursday February 7, at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium in Accra to determine who goes into the final of the 26th African Cup of Nations. It is a tight fixture indeed!

The winner will get the chance to play for a fifth title on Sunday against title holders, Egypt or Cote d'Ivoire, who play in the other semi final match in Kumasi the same day.

Ghana reached this stage of the championship with a 100 per cent record, having recorded victories over all opponents in the four matches played so far while Cameroon faltered in their first match against Egypt but bounced back with impressive wins to reach the semis. Though both countries are on record as having been crowned four times, there is great difference between the generations of footballers, who crafted those records for Ghana and Cameroon.
Ghana savoured her last continental glory in Libya in 1982, two clear years before Cameroon kissed the cup for the first time. While Ghana, the first four-time record holders went into a slumber, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon went on the prowl from 1984 and within 18 short soccer years, involving nine championships, the Cameroonians have won four titles to equal Ghana's record. Based on the eras the two countries chalked continental successes, Cameroon will be favoured by pundits to get into the final on Sunday. But the records also show that Cameroon won two of their titles in 2000 and 2002 through penalty shootouts, which are equal to a rolling dice in a game of chance.

The current generation of Ghanaian players has a team spirit that had been the missing element in the Black Stars for over two decades. They are bound together by a resolve to succeed and that fuels their level of commitment when they play for Ghana. Without injured substantive skipper, Stephen Appiah and suspended stand in Captain, John Mensah, the Black Stars will be deprived of two principal actors.

That notwithstanding, the Current Captain, Michael Essien has assured Ghanaians that they would eliminate Cameroon to book a date in the grand finale.
Coach Claude Le Roy, who guided Cameroon to their second title in 1988, is very much aware of the playing pattern of the Lions and the department in which they are most dangerous. Similarly, he knows their weak points and where they are most vulnerable.

The Indomitable Lions might be very sharp in attack where they boast of Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o Fils; Joseph Desiree Job; Mohamed Idrissou and Stephane Mbia.

Le Roy might load the midfield and tighten the back line to thwart their foray into Ghana's attacking third. The Black Stars must avoid committing infringements close to their penalty box as Geremi Ngitap has the ability to convert from dead ball situations within 30 metres. A very mobile and swift attacking formation by the Black Stars could prove the Achilles heel of the Cameroonians. A racing Manuel Junior Agogo, the galloping pace of Haminu Draman, the velocity and power of Sulley Ali Muntari and the foxtrot steps of Quincy Owusu Abeyie would plunge Rigobert Song and his defensive allies into serious trouble.

The aging Cameroonian skipper has shown signs of cracking under pressure and the Ghanaian front men have enough potential to make him buckle All points to a fierce battle but it looks like Ghana, due to their resolve and unflinching team spirit, coupled with the massive support they get from their teeming and vociferous supporters. The other confrontation between defending champions, Egypt and Cote d'Ivoire will be another hell of a match. Didier Drogba and his colleagues are very highly rated and have not disappointed since the commencement of the championship. Their attack is razor sharp, no wonder they have scored 13 goals in four matches and have conceded just a single goal, a testimony of their tight defence as well.

Aruna Dindane, Aruna Kone and Salomon Kalou are players, who can always complement Drogba's goal scoring efforts, while Yaya Toure and Emmanuel Ebue have the knack to turn defence into attack at any given time.
The Pharaohs are also not wanting in the depth of talent that could sway a match result in favour of a team. Coach Mohamed Shehata has a reliable pair of hands in goalkeeper Esam Hadary, whose huge frame freezes the confidence of attackers. He will also rely on dependable players like skipper Ahmed Hassan, Mohamed Shawky and Amir Zaki to hold the Ivorians, while he dispatches Mohamed Zidan and Mohamed Aboutrika to engage in exploitative adventure in the territory of the opponents. It will be tight from start to finish and the team with the better game plan and deeper concentration will triumph in the end.