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They kicked out the hosts and they defied their doubters.
Ghana’s ‘inexperienced’ squad has finally achieved something that not even the 2008 Black Stars team – which comprised the likes of Michael Essien, John Mensah, and Sulley Muntari – could do on home soil: to convert into reality the dream of reaching the final of the Nations Cup.
Now, Ghana are either 90 minutes or 120 minutes and a penalty shoot-out away from putting their hands on the prestigious 2010 Africa Cup of Nations trophy.
The road to the final – quick recap
In their first game of the competition, Ghana were rattled 3-1 by the giant Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire; many football fans including Ghanaians branded this result as a “predictable defeat” considering the experience of the Ivorian players compared to the young age of the Black Stars.
Consequently, Ghana had to overcome the misery of heading out so early from Angola. Beating Burkina Faso in the second and last match of Group B’s three-team table was their mission.
Through the much-criticized and ostracized son of the legendary Abedi Pele – Dede Ayew – the Black Stars got the goal that fired them into the quarter-finals of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
After that, Ghana affronted the tournament’s hosts Angola which they ousted thanks to a single goal from Asamoah Gyan – the striker that a majority of Ghanaian football fans love to hate, mock, and criticize.
The same young man was also the hero against Nigeria in the semis as his lone goal provided Ghana’s desired victory which eventually saw them reach the final of the Nations Cup.
So two criticized players – Dede Ayew and Asamoah Gyan – and three “1-0” results made the trick for Coach Milovan Rajevac’s team.
On Sunday, can the Black Stars inflict darkness upon the Pharaohs of Egypt?
A new record is about to be set: the clinching of three Africa Cup of Nations titles on the trot. The Pharaohs of Egypt will realize this prospect if they indeed defeat Ghana on Sunday.
No Amr Zaki and no Mohamed Aboutrika who scored the only goal against Cameroon in the final of the 2008 Nations Cup.
This unfit pair of players was left out by Coach Hassan Shehata ahead of Angola 2010.
Still, the Egyptians have done what many people thought they wouldn’t be able to repeat: to reach the final of Africa’s most honorable competition yet again.
Right from the start, the Pharaohs of Egypt imposed their authority on the rest; they beat the Super Eagles of Nigeria 3-1 as they commenced their campaign on a high. Mozambique and Benin didn’t trouble them too much either and Egypt finished with 9 points to top Group C.
Facing Cameroon in the quarter-finals proved to be a tough test and Captain Ahmed Hassan even scored into his own net in the first period to lower the Pharaohs’ chances of progressing.
But human mistakes or controversy rather saw the skipper round up a meaningful brace to seal the Egyptians’ 3-1 comeback in extra-time.
It was Algeria’s turn to try and prevent the Egyptians from reaching their third successive final; but the repeat of the Khartoum battle didn’t see the Desert Foxes biting the Pharaohs this time out.
In an eventful night, the Algerians succumbed to a dreadful result; three of their men got sent off including goalkeeper Chaouchi. Egypt scored four times as well to complete their dream revenge on the nation that denied them a World Cup spot.
Among Ghana's squad which has made it to the final of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, some few names come out as the most dangerous. Richard Kingston, Asamoah Gyan, Kwadwo Asamoah, and Dede Ayew are all among the list of players that Egypt will surely be studying ahead of Sunday's clash.
Goalkeeper Richard Kingston:
Since conceding three goals against Cote d’Ivoire, the keeper has proven his talent with three consecutive clean sheets. The Black Stars captain could emerge as the tournament’s best player if he puts in a heroic performance in the final.
He is using the 2010 African Cup of Nations to shape a new image of himself for the public. Asamoah Gyan suffered miserable weeks under pressure from the fans and through injury at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
He has scored two important goals for Ghana lately and he will surely be on the radar of Egyptian defenders come Sunday.
Kwadwo Asamoah and Dede Ayew:
They look the liveliest in midfield for Ghana. Number 10 jersey holder Kwadwo Asamoah has shown strength and good techniques on the ball. The only thing that is currently missing is a goal to bring justice to his impressive performances so far.
Dede Ayew meanwhile will be remembered for scoring the goal that saved Ghana from packing up their bags early. Ayew aims to prove how worthy he is to play for the Ghanaian national team. The FIFA U-20 World Cup winning captain could create some damage against Egypt in the final.
The Egyptian national team is filled with talent and veterans but three specific names lead the pack. Essam El Hadary, Ahmed Hassan, and Gedo will be under the spotlight in the Sunday's Nations Cup final.
Essam El Hadary:
Two clean sheets, only two goals allowed (and one of those was scored by his teammate and captain, Ahmed Hassan). At 37 years of age, Essam El Hadary may well be playing in his last Nations Cup. He will try to influence Egypt to victory by winning the duel against his opposite, Richard Kingston.
There’s no doubt that Ahmed Hassan is the motivational motor behind Egypt’s positive results in the Nations Cup. The captain made it clear that the Pharaohs were in Angola to find glory one more time.
His leading role in the quarter-finals played the trick against Cameroon. He’ll want to use his experience to defeat another sub-Saharan country, Ghana.
He is a mystery, a super-sub, a goal-poacher despite being a midfielder. Gedo scored in Egypt’s first game against Nigeria despite coming from the bench as a 72nd minute substitute.
He rounded up Egypt’s win with a stunning strike against Mozambique after being on the field for only thirteen minutes.
Super-sub Gedo also punished Geremi for the mistake he committed at the back as he netted in his third goal of the tournament. The 25-year-old also rounded up Egypt’s controversial win over Algeria with a 90th minute low strike.
The midfielder has four goals and he is poised to win the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations’ top scorer award. The Black Stars of Ghana will surely have to be aware of his mesmerizing potential.
1) Ghana kicked of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations with a 3-1 defeat. Ironically, Egypt commenced with a 3-1 victory on match-day 1.
2) The Nations Cup defending champions, Egypt, clinched their last title on Ghana’s soil to be crowned six-time African champions.
Ironically, six players among Ghana’s Black Stars team tasted glory on Egypt’s soil when they lifted the FIFA U-20 World Cup trophy.
3) Ghana, the most inexperienced side at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, will affront the aging and expert players of the Egyptian national football team in the final.
Who wins this last North African vs West African battle?
Are the Pharaohs going to use their divine power to wipe the stars from the sky and bring them down to earth?
Are the Black Stars going to blind the Pharaohs with luminosity and punish them with darkness?
Ghana triumphed in Egypt at the youth level in October 2009, can they conquer this North African nation in January 2010?
These questions will only be answered on Sunday, January 31st at the Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda.