Ghana came into the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations looking to show more attacking ambition than in previous tournaments, and through three games, it’s worked. The Black Stars took seven points from three games to finish on top of Group B. Along the way, they scored six goals, an output that’s positioned them next to Ivory Coast as the team most likely to win this tournament.
On Saturday, in a quarterfinal the Black Stars were expected to win, we saw a bit of a reversion to type. Ghana didn’t find an open play goal against Cape Verde until stoppage time, though by then an early second half Wakaso Mubarak penalty kick had forced the Blue Sharks to chase the match. With Cape Verde throwing men forward, Mubarak completed his double and sent Ghana into the semifinals after a 2-0 win.
Throughout the match, Ghana coach James Kewsi Appiah left striker Asamoah Gyan alone up top, a setup that harkened back to the more conservative approaches the Black Stars have employed in recent year. For his part Gyan conceded it was difficult but fruitful work:
“It can be quite frustrating, being alone upfront,” Gyan conceded, “but being on the winning side is all that matters.”
Saturday’s victory clinched the Black Stars’ fourth straight semifinal appearance, a final four place that won’t be free of controversy. Just as any match decided by a penalty kick would be, today’s result was disputed, with Cape Verde boss Lucio Antunes asking reporters to “have to take your own conclusions on the officiating” which decide Gyan drew a penalty after going to round in the 52nd minute.
Sarcastically, Antunes also noted it was better for the tournament for Ghana to advance, as they’d draw bigger crowds.
“The result is fair because Ghana have good players,” Antunes said. “The tournament wasn’t going to be interesting with Togo versus Cape Verde.”
While the sentiments were obviously misplaced, there is some truth in noting South Africa’s crowds are largely pro-Ghanian. The country adopted the Black Stars in 2010 when Ghana was Africa’s last survivor at the World Cup.
The support has carried over to this year’s Cup of Nations, with Appiah noting the support has side saw Saturday.
“South Africa is a second home of Ghanaians,” the Black Stars boss said. “I wish I could get dual nationality, I’d choose South Africa!”
The warmth of the crowd was also felt on the field, with Gyan noting the “wonderful reception for (Ghana) and I want to pray for South Africa, so that they do well for the sake of their people’s kindness to us.”
Such sentiments are sure to maintain South African loyalties into the next round. There, Ghana will face the winner of tomorrow’s Burkina Faso-Togo meeting in Nelspruit.