AFTER scrambling out of the group stages thanks to a solitary André Ayew goal against Burkina Faso, Ghana will look at the knockout stage as a chance to start the ANC (African Nations Cup) afresh, and show both Africa and the world that the Black Stars have what it takes to be champions.
JUMPING FOR JOY: Ghana celebrate victory against Burkina Faso.
Their first test will be Quarter-Final opponents Angola. The Antelopes made headlines across the football world earlier in the tournament, as they threw a 4-0 lead away in the space of 15 minutes against Mali. Since that embarrassing night, Angola have regrouped; topping Group A.
The Antelopes are like a chameleon though, changing their entire appearance and attitude on a whim. This versatility can be an advantage but it has a reputation of back firing spectacularly. For 75 minutes against Mali, Angola showed an irresistible array of football magic before suddenly collapsing. Against Algeria, the Antelopes looked like a caged animal, timid and nervous, wary of venturing out of their own half.
QUESTION OF TACTICS: With a young side, Ghana Coach Milovan Rajevac will need to focus on keeping the defence tight against an unpredictable Angola.
To complicate things further, Angola Coach Manuel Jose employs a ‘unique’ tactical formation of 3-3-2-2. This multi-layered system allows the Antelopes to be quick on the counter attack with multiple support players. Ghana centre-backs Eric Addo and Lee Addy will have to be decisive to stop Angola’s initial striking threat, whilst remaining aware of the waves of support players that will follow the Angolan forwards.
The 3-3-2-2 formation has benefits but leaves the Antelopes vulnerable to pace. Mali exposed this in style, however Malawi and Algeria both proved too flaccid in attack to stretch Angola’s thin defensive line. Pace will therefore be vital to Ghana’s success, a quality Asamoah Gyan and Matthew Amoah possess in abundance. The Black Stars will have to hurt Angola on the break and be clinical with their shots, something which failed them against Burkina Faso.
If any player warrants special attention from the Ghanaian defence it’s Angolan striker Flávio. The forward is the tournaments joint top scorer and a potent threat for any side. However he has yet to prove his fitness for the match, having sat out the final group match against Algeria.
HOTSHOT: Angolan forward Flávio will be crucial to their hopes of progression, however an injury may sideline the star stiker.
Injuries similarly continue to plague the Ghana squad. Key player Michael Essien will play no further part in the competition having been ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury. Anthony Annan and Asamoah Gyan have both been declared fit but are still struggling to recover full match sharpness.
Absent captain Stephen Appiah indicated his concerns over the young Ghana side’s determination: “From here on in, it’s difficult because every game is a final. One strike and you are out, so they [Ghana] need to keep believing and fighting to the end”
This match will be a close encounter. Both sides have proved their defences to be sturdy yet vunerable. Whoever scores first will most likely be the victor and given that Angola have demonstrated a superior attacking flair, I expect the antelopes to narrowly progress to the semi-finals.
Prediction: Angola 1-0 Ghana