Ghana v Equatorial Guinea: African Nations Cup Semi-Final
It’s Ghana v Equatorial Guinea this evening in the second African Nations Cup Semi-Finals with Live action from Estadio de Malabo at 19.00
Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan is an injury doubt following his collision with Guinea goalkeeper Naby Yattara that left the striker with a hip problem.
Crystal Palace striker Kwesi Appiah, who scored in the 3-0 victory over Guinea, could replace Gyan.
Equatorial Guinea will again look to striker Javier Balboa to provide the goals, following his double that saw off Tunisia in their quarter-final.
However, he said: “I am the reference for the public, but it’s a team job.”
Gabon referee Eric Otogo will be in the spotlight after controversial scenes marred Equatorial Guinea’s last-eight tie with Tunisia.
A controversial penalty decision in the dying minutes by Mauritian referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn turned the tide in favour of Equatorial Guinea against Tunisia.
Javier Balboa converted the harshly awarded spot-kick and he scored again in extra-time to give the host nation a shock 2-1 victory.
Seechurn has since been suspended for six months for what the Confederation of Africa Football described as a “poor performance”.
After the game, riot police had to protect the match officials from furious Tunisian players.
Otogo, 38, who has officiated two matches at this tournament, will be expected to redeem the organisers’ credibility with his performance in Malabo.
Ghana coach Avram Grant said he feels there have been a couple of bad refereeing calls at the tournament, but preferred to focus on preparing his team.
“If the referee will do two, three (mistakes), I cannot control (it). I can control only our performance,” said the former Chelsea manager.
“I think the referees until now – except (for) one or two games – have been good.
“And I am sure everyone will be watching this and everybody who needs to take care of this will do their job.”
This will be Ghana’s fifth consecutive semi-final, while the Nations Lightning are in the last four for the first time.
If the host nation’s passage to the semi-final was controversial, the Black Stars’ qualification was most convincing as they dumped Guinea 3-0.
Four-time winners Ghana have improved since an opening-match 2-1 loss to Senegal by beating Algeria, South Africa and Guinea.
Equatorial Guinea are unhappy having to move to Malabo for the game from their fortress in Bata, where they have not lost an international game.
Three years ago, it was in Malabo that they were thumped 3-0 by the Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals.
Balboa will again be the source of inspiration for the team. He has stood out with his maturity and class.
Goalkeeper Felipe Ovono, who features in the semi-professional Equatoguinean league, has also caught the eye and is one of the reasons his country are still in this tournament.
“It will be difficult to win the Cup of Nations, but I pray to still win it,” said Argentine coach Esteban Becker, who led Equatorial Guinea to the 2012 African women’s title.
“We like the challenge, we are hungry to win. We are a young team, a team for the future. We have at least 10 top young players, but we want to take it one step at a time.
“All the same, I’m very happy for a small country like Equatorial Guinea, even though we lined up many young players who are playing their football in the lower leagues in Europe.
“It’s incredible, I’m proud of what we have so far achieved.”
- Ghana have made it to the semi-final for the fifth Africa Cup of Nations in a row. However, they have made the final only once in this run (2nd in 2010)
- Equatorial Guinea have made the semi-final stage in only their second appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations, beating their previous best in 2012 where they made the quarter-finals
- National Lightning are the first hosts to reach the semi-final stage since Ghana in 2008 (they finished 3rd). The last hosts to win the competition were Egypt in 2006
- This will be the first meeting between Ghana and Equatorial Guinea
- The Black Stars are looking to record four successive Afcon wins for the first time since 2008
- Andre Ayew has been involved in more goals than any player at Afcon 2015 (4, scoring two and assisting two)
- Javier Balboa is the only player to score a direct free-kick at the tournament so far, with his strike being the only goal in extra-time too
- Equatorial Guinea have conceded just twice on the road to the semi-finals, while Ghana have let in just three goals
- Ghana have faced just six shots on target in their games so far at the tournament, while only one side (Tunisia) have faced more than Equatorial Guinea (19)
- Felipe Ovono has made more saves than any other keeper at Afcon 2015 (17)
Forgive us for not embracing the “romantic” story of Equatorial Guinea and their surprising march to the semi-finals of this Cup of Nations.
Their quarter final win over Tunisia was one of the more disgraceful and invidious things that’s been seen in recent years.
Provided that the referee in this game doesn’t behave in the same manner as the gentleman who worked on the Tunisia match, then Ghana should breeze into the final.
Off the field influence is the reason that Ghana don’t represent storming value at 1.8 to win this match in normal time, and I’m worried enough about that to swerve what could be one of the best bets of recent times.
Ghana are by far the better side, and they’re improving by the game. They brushed aside Guinea and landed us a winner, and they’re likely to do the same here.
Having already tipped the Black Stars at the beginning of the competition at 9.6, We don’t feel a huge need to go in again, although I would now make them favourites ahead of an Ivory Coast team whose shambolic defence will surely cost them eventually.
With the Black Stars in the bank, and with doubts surrounding the legitimacy of what will transpire in this second semi final, it’s hard to find a new bet.
The over/under goals prices look correct for once, with “unders” the overwhelming favourite at 1.55, and while it’s tempting to back “Yes” in the “Penalty Taken” or “Sending Off” market purely because of a whiff of corruption, that just doesn’t feel right.
On the basis that they don’t get any, and that Ghana make sure that they aren’t vulnerable to a late penalty decision, place a small bet on the over 2.5 goals, Ghana are certainly two goals better than their opponents, but in the mad world of this Cup of Nations, that’s just about the only thing that is certain.
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