GHANA’s Under-23 coach, Ibrahim Tanko says his charges are bracing themselves up for a fight against Cote d’Ivoire when they clash in the semi-finals of the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Tuesday November 19
At the Cairo International Stadium, the Black Meteors take another giant step towards their dream to return to the Olympic Games since 2004 when they engage neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire for one of the tickets for the tournament.
Having survived a group stage exit by turning things around in their final group game last Thursday, Coach Tanko says they will avoid walking on tenterhooks as they did at in their Group A campaign until Kwabena Owusu’s brace saved them against Mali.
Given the pedigree of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, this game- an all-West Africa clash could pass for a fina-l, but Coach Tanko insists their focus will be to get it right from start to finish and not let down their guard as they did against Egypt who came from behind twice to eventually beat the Meteors 3-2.
We have learnt our lessons in our group games and we will not be repeating the mistakes that cost us. It won’t be easy against Cote d’Ivoire, but we also have our eyes on the Olympic slot. We want to make it easier by being in the final and not leaving it to chance from a possible third place game,” the Meteors coach said in a pre-match press conference.
While the Meteors took care of Mali with the 2-0 win, their cause was helped by Egypt who beat Cameroun 2-1, a result that put the Stars ahead of the Camerounians on better goals, as both had four points from their one draw, one win and one loss.
Coach Tanko is not the only one who is confident the Meteors will sail through despite the tough challenge ahead. Striker, Owusu who got the goals against Mali said: “ This is our chance. Having reached the semi-finals, we will play for one more victory to reach the Olympics. It won’t be easy, but we will give it our all,” .
While coach Tanko and his charges are dreaming to be at the Cairo International stadium on Friday, November 22 to meet the winner of the Egypt versus South Africa match, his Cote d’ Ivoire counterpart, Souhailo Haidara and his side have plans of their own.
“We know what we have to do when we meet Ghana. It will not be easy but having come this far, we will go all out against Ghana to enable us to book a place for the grand finale,” Coach Haidara said.
Cote d’Ivoire come into the game as Group A winners, with wins against Nigeria (1-0) and Zambia (1-0) and a loss to South Africa (0-1).
The Ivorians will miss the service of Christian Kouame who plays for Genoa in the Italian Serie A . He has been ruled out with a raptured knee cruciate ligament and the coach is now banking his hopes on Kouadio Dabila who scored the match winner against Zambia and his teammates to deliver .
The other semi-finals match will be a north versus south derby as hosts, Egypt, face South Africa at the Cairo International Stadium, in a game that will see the Young Pharaohs not fighting a finale ticket and an early Olympic berth, but also avenging the loss their big brothers suffered at the hands of the big brothers of the South Africans when they played in the Round of 16 encounter at the 2019 AFCON, incidentally played at the same venue of today’s encounter.
Winners of the semi-finals matches automatically qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with the losers meeting in the third place game which will also determine to the third team to qualify for the Games.