Burkina Faso will go in this semi-final clash as clear underdogs after they scored an extra-time winner over Togo in the quarters. Burkina Faso has been able to eke out two draws and two victories so far and will hope to continue their dream run in this year’s AFCON.
After seeing off last year’s winners Zambia in the group stages with an expert defensive display, they toiled long and hard against Togo. Jonathan Pitroipa, who was the chief architect of everything offensive about Burkina Faso headed home the winner in the 105th minute. It was a physical encounter to say the least and the referee was not hesitant to dish out cards. As many as 8 were shown during the match as both teams struggled to make any headways in the opposition defence. The finishing from both the teams left a lot to be desired as they fumbled chance after chance in the final third. The game opened up after the break as two teams now preferred end-to-end play rather than physical bout. Burkina Faso deservingly won the tie and now they enter uncharted waters where the mighty Ghana lies in wait for them.
Alain Traoré has been ruled out for the entire tournament following his untimely injury and Burkina Faso will be looking to Jonathan Pitroipa to show them the way. The Stade Rennais player prefers to play either as a striker or a right-winger and has been key to Burkina Faso’s progress in the tournament. Their main game plan involves flooding the midfield in order to block out the opposition and then hit on the counter attack.
Burkina Faso might hold a slight advantage over Ghana in the upcoming match as they have played as many as four matches at the Mbombela. The pitch has been criticized by one and all with Togo striker Adebayor calling it a “disgrace”. However, that might not be enough to stop Ghana, who prefers a sleek, passing game.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Daouda Diakite(GK); Bakary Kone, Paul Koulibaly, Saidou Panandetiguiri, Mohamed Koffi; Djakaridja Kone, Jonathan Pitroipa, Issouf Ouattara; Charles Kaboré, Wilfried Sanou, Beli Moumouni Dagano
Ghana has slowly and steadily grown in strength as the tournament has progressed. After their initial draw against Congo DR, they’ve clawed their way back in this year’s AFCON and staked their claim of going all the way. One of the pre-tournament favorites, Ghana has made their presence felt with three successive victories.
In their previous match, they faced off against Cape Verde for a place in the semi-finals of AFCON 2013.
Cape Verde has been the surprise package of the tournament and to get so far has been a dream run for the tiny nation. However, Ghana was in no mood to oblige and dished out a performance which sent a warning to the rest of the teams. The partnership of Porto’s Christian Atsu and Asamoah Gyan has been instrumental for Ghana this year and they will be looking to the pair to put them ahead in the semi-finals where they face off against Burkina Faso. Ghana will be hoping to break the jinx this time around after failing to cross the semi-final mark in the last three editions of AFCON.
Two emerging players for Ghana has been Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Anthony Annan and James Kwesi Appiah will be looking to mold these two players into quality performers once the tournament is done and dusted. Ghana has performed remarkably well in the absence of John Mensah and Michael Essien with Juventus’ Kwando Asamoah being a force to reckon in midfield.
The Black Stars will be looking to progress to this year’s finals and hold aloft the coveted trophy which they last won in 1982. Wakaso will be looking to continue from where he left off against Cape Verde, where he scored the only goals in the match – one from the penalty spot and the other deep in injury time.
Possible Starting XI (4-5-1): Fatau Dauda(GK); John Paintsil, Issac Vorsah, John Boye, Harrison Afful; Christian Atsu, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Mubarak Wakaso, Mohammed Rabiu, Kwadwo Asamoah; Asamoah Gyan
In what will be an interesting encounter for both the teams, Ghana might just be too strong for Burkina Faso at this stage of the tournament. Ghana has to break the jinx that has been placed on them and finally qualify for the finals of the AFCON 2013. Burkina Faso, on the other hand has nothing to lose, given that no one expected them to come so far in this tournament. It will be a cagey affair to say the least but one where Ghana will come out on top. Burkina Faso will have a considerably less rest than Ghana and fatigue factor is likely to even out any advantage they have with their familiarity with the turf.
By Amlan Chaudhury, Dirty Tackle