Eagles to shoot for the Stars: Ghana vs Nigeria

29 Jan

(Ghana celebrates - Source: Getty images)

Today boasts a tasty double bill of clashes with an appetising battle of supremacy and a regional scores to settle for dessert. The first of the games sees an all west African clash, that pits the waning wits of the Nigerians, against the unlikely youth of the Ghana’s Black Stars. Without midfield talisman Essien, you wouldn’t have bet on Ghana achieving anything this Cup of Nations. The young-Stars  have shone throughout the tournament, slipping up only in their encounter with Cote D’Ivoire. But looks who’s still going strong. The Super Eagles have given a poor account of themselves thus far, barely scraping through games. Their last match a prime example when they were outplayed for the entire second half by the lowest ranking team left in the tournament, Zambia. Nigeria was lucky the Zambians lacked a cutting edge up front and that allowed the not-so-Super Eagles to fortuitously find themselves on the brink of the final of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu, was given the semi final as a minimum target in order to keep his job, and somehow he has so far delivered. There is still much unrest and debate about him leading the Super Eagles to the World Cup and you feel his acceptance will only be complete if Nigeria lift the Nations Cup. On paper, the team he boasts is capable of achieving all his wildest dreams. There’s only one thing I’ve got to say about that; the game’s not played on paper.

Nigeria flew out, relentlessly attacking the junior Stars. They played with a tempo we’ve not yet seen- to be fair, it would be a feat for them to play any slower. Martins looked lively and almost put the Super Eagles ahead twice in the opening siege. With Odemwingie aiding in troubling the back four, Ghana looked to be in for a long night. Kingson, however, cut a calm figure in the Black Star’s goal and managed to clear up many balls that the blossoming partnership threaded through. HIs confidence soon spread to the rest of the team as they seemed content to soak up some pressure. After 20 minutes and very much against the run of play, Ghana won a corner. The ball was whipped in to the near post. Gyan stole across the defence. He leapt and glanced a powerful header in to the back of the net. The Black Stars were rewarded for keeping their cool and sang to the cool tune of 1 – 0.

Nigeria were forced to chase the game and almost found themselves trailing even further when Gyan lobbed Enyeama, the ball dipping just the wrong side of the bar. At the other end, Martins came close to equalising when he latched onto a speculative Odemwingie effort, but once again Kingson was on hand to pick up the pieces. Nigeria began to rush their play, the 2 up front lashing shots from distance or pulling shots wide. The half ended with Ghana comfortably sitting on a lead and Nigeria desperate for a spark of inspiration.

The Black Stars came out shakily in the second half, almost conceding 2 own goals in the first 10 minutes. The Nigerians had the fight back in them and it looked like only a matter of time before they equalised. They had shots blocked, saved and hit the side netting. The Nigerians flooded forward and mixed up their tactics wonderfully. They stretched the defence and played good crosses. They played balls over the top to feed their strikers. They played through the feet of their skilled midfield. The Black Stars defence was well-tested and came through hairy moments, but the Super Eagles couldn’t deliver in the final third. It was Nigeria’s turn to come up short and rue missed opportunities. Ghana’s tactics worked brilliantly again and Gyan found the net to shoot the Black Stars to their first final since 1992.

Final Score: Ghana 1 – 0 Nigeria

Man of the Match: Kingson who kept the Nigerians out time after time and lead the defence with great authority.

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