Perennial bridesmaids Ghana aim to shed tag

Ghana's national football team players taking part in a training session on Feb 1, 2017, in Bongoville, on the eve of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament Gabon 2017 semi-final match between Ghana and Cameroon.
Ghana's national football team players taking part in a training session on Feb 1, 2017, in Bongoville, on the eve of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament Gabon 2017 semi-final match between Ghana and Cameroon.PHOTO: AFP

FRANCEVILLE (Gabon) • The nearly men of African football in recent years, Ghana, go into a sixth consecutive semi-final at the Africa Cup of Nations when they face Cameroon today.

The Black Stars have not won the trophy since 1982, instead gaining a reputation for coming up just short all too often over the last decade.

Ghana lost on penalties to the Ivory Coast in the 2015 final, while their run of near misses began with a 1-0 semi-final defeat to Cameroon at home in 2008.

But in Gabon, they have seemed like a side on a mission to end their title drought and a 2-1 quarter-final win over DR Congo on Sunday took them through to the last four.

Cameroon, a side dismissed by most pundits prior to the tournament, await.

"In the group stage they played well and against Senegal they were very impressive, so the semi-final is going to be tough," said Ghana coach Avram Grant.

Grant will be eager to have skipper Asamoah Gyan - a veteran of the 2008 squad - back from the adductor injury suffered in their last group game against Egypt and that kept him out of the quarter-finals win.

Cameroon have been preparing contentedly in the knowledge they have already exceeded expectations in making it this far.

"Nobody was expecting us to be here but from the first day of our preparations for this tournament we had been hoping to go as far as possible," full-back Fai Collins said.

Cameroon progressed from their group at the expense of hosts Gabon. They then edged out favourites Senegal at the quarter-final stage thanks to a Sadio Mane miss in a penalty shoot-out after a goal-less draw.

The Indomitable Lions have put behind them the withdrawals of key players from the competition, including Liverpool's Joel Matip and Eric Choupo-Moting of Schalke, and are flourishing under their Belgian coach, Hugo Broos.

"The players who didn't come have their own personal reasons why they didn't come and we are not looking back," added Collins, of Standard Liege.

"We are focused on those who are here. It is a group, not one player or two players."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'Perennial bridesmaids Ghana aim to shed tag'. Print Edition | Subscribe