Zambia and Ghana go head to head in the first Africa Cup of Nations semi-final this afternoon, with both teams determined to book their place in the final.
Looking at Zambia to begin with, it is worth noting that they haven’t made it to an Africa Cup of Nations final since 1994. This is a run they would love to end, while they are also bidding to become the first southern African team to make the final since 1998.
They are without doubt the underdogs to do just that, but during this year’s tournament, they have shown everyone what they are capable of.
The 2-1 victory over the much fancied Senegal last month was excellent for example; as was the narrow 1-0 win over joint hosts Equatorial Guinea.
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The 3-0 win over Sudan at the quarter-final stage also highlighted their ability to dominate teams, while they have kept a clean sheet in the last two matches. They may be the underdogs, but they certainly shouldn’t be written off just yet.
As for Ghana, well they have an excellent record of reaching the Africa Cup of Nations final. If they make it this year, they will have done for a record ninth time. This shows the pedigree they have and why they are favourites to overcome Zambia.
It has been 30 years since they actually won this tournament though and manager Goran Stevanovic has spoken about his desire to end this run. However, getting to the final is the main focus at the moment.
Ghana have certainly shown decent enough form in the last few weeks, although they have had to grind out results to progress this far. The 2-1 victory over Tunisia in the last round for example – a win they achieved after extra-time – would have taken a lot out of them.
Looking at the team news, Zambia have no fresh injury concerns and could name the same side for a third successive game. As for Ghana, captain John Mensah faces a late fitness test, while Emmanuel-Agyemang Badu is also a doubt.
Overall, this is set to be another extremely tight Africa Cup of Nations contest. It is a tournament famous for its closely fought matches and although Ghana are favourites, there aren’t many reasons to suggest that this will be any different.