January 31, 2014

Ghana, Libya Set For CHAN Showdown

Libya players celebrates victory during the 2014 CAF African Nations Championships football match between Zimbabwe and Libya at Free State Stadium in Free State, on the 29 January 2014
Libya players celebrates victory during the 2014 CAF African Nations Championships football match between Zimbabwe and Libya at Free State Stadium in Free State, on the 29 January 2014

The battle for the right to be crowned 2014 CAF African Nations Championship winners on Saturday night when they meet in the tournament final at the Cape Town Stadium, kick-off at 20:00.

The Mediterranean Knights have been the surprise package of the tournament in reaching this final, their first in CAF continental competitions since the 1982 Africa Cup of Nations. On that occasion they faced – you guessed it – Ghana in the final and lost 7-6 on penalties after drawing 1-1.

The North Africans’ road to the final began with them finishing second behind Ghana in Group C. They then eliminated Gabon and Zimbabwe in the quarter- and semifinals respectively, both in a penalty shootout.

As for Ghana, they have also had a tough road to the tournament’s ultimate match. After topping Group C, they edged out a powerful DR Congo side 1-0 in the last eight and then trumped their great West African rivals Nigeria in a penalty shootout in the semifinal.

The Black Stars really should have lost their clash against the Super Eagles, but they showed an incredible winning mentality to hang on in there before being the more clinical and efficient side from the spot kicks.

That the teams will be evenly matched seems very likely, given that they played to a 1-1 draw in their Group C clash at the Free State Stadium just a fortnight ago. Ghana took an early lead through Mustapha Yahaya, but Libya hit back with a second half penalty from Faisal Al Badari to earn a share of the points.

A draw in the final would see no share of the spoils, only an extra 30 minutes and then a penalty shootout if required, though clearly such a prospect will not intimidate either side given their routes to the final.

Ghana will have the edge in terms of physicality and athleticism, but Libya has proven to be a resilient and tactically-intelligent team who can adapt their game to counter the strength of their opponents.

Both sides are looking to join DR Congo and Tunisia as champions of the Chan tournament, though this will be Ghana’s second appearance in the final. They lost 2-0 to DRC in the Ivory Coast in 2009.

The final at Cape Town Stadium will be preceded by the third-place playoff clash between defeated semifinalists Zimbabwe and Nigeria. Their bronze medal match will kick-off at 17:00.

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