CAN ’10: Semifinals! Ghana-Nigeria
Good day! It’s the first of the CAN ’10 semifinals, and a historic West African showdown featuring 4-time CAN champs Ghana vs. 2-time winners Naija. This post is coming LIVE! from my cubicle so, in a bid to salvage some scraps of professionalism, I am going to keep the updates light…but I’m here! Woah!…team sheets are shockingly available already! [NB: “shockingly available” team sheets were PERHAPS UNSURPRISINGLY inaccurate!]
Ghana: Kingson; Inkoom, Vorsah, Addy, Sarpei, A. Ayew, Badu, Annan, K. Asamoah, Opoku, A. Gyan,
Nigeria: Enyeama; Yusuf, Shittu, Nwaneri, Echiejile, Kaita, Mikel, Ayila, , Odemwingie, Obasi, Martins
The crowd is currently looking patchy in Luanda’s Estadio 11 de Novembro, but it’s rapidly filling up. Fattened FIFA goose Sepp Blatter is looking on from a balcony, and I’m at my laptop in my cube! The ball begins to rolllllll!
~20 min: GHANA GOAL!!! From a corner it’s Asamoah Gyan, wriggling away from his marker and heading in at the near post! Naija were starting to look comfortable on the ball, but now the Black Stars have gone ahead on a set piece. That’s Gyan’s 3rd CAN gol.
25 min: In an age of rapidly changing player hairstyles, Asamoah Gyan has had the same, awesome mini-natural do for at least 5 years now. I remember admiring during his days playing for Udinese. More to the point, he is looking spritely today, and aside from his goal has already forced several half-errors from the Nigerian back four.
30 min: Opoku has gone to ground several times this game, but he appears to be genuinely hurt…he’s off and more experienced head Haminu Draman is on in his place.
32 min: Ghana obviously ahead here, but Odemwingie & Martins are starting to swap smart passes and get in dangerous positions for Nigeria.
44 min: Mikel floats in a free kick from ~25 yards out, and Richard Kingson comes out and punches the ball clear…and a good thing he dead and several massive Nigerian heads were winding up menacingly to plump for that ball.
HALFTIME! and it’s GHANA 1-0 NIGERIA—welp, the Super Eagles have had 60% of the possession and were starting to organize on the edge of the Ghana box towards the end of the half. It’s clear that the Black Stars are going to follow the same gameplan that knocked out Angola…they’re a goal up, so they just have to stay concentrated and compact and they’re into the finals.
49 min: The Nigerians have come out energized and are buzzing around the edge of the Ghanian area…Obasi just tried to roundhouse kick a cross in but it deflected off a defender.
54 min: Ibrahim Ayew comes on at left back for Sarpei (who was playing through an injury he picked up in the first half). It seems a smart move as Martins and Obasi were starting to cause problems on that side of the field.
60 min: A smart chip by Mikel sails over the two CBs and it’s Martins racing onto it…but Kingson is off his line and makes a crucial save at close range!
63 min: Obasi & Martins don’t look much like scoring today, despite being consistently fed convertable opportunities. You’d have to think that one of the bench-bound striker pool of Yakubu, Kanu, or Uche are soon to be summoned here?
70 min: Mikel is really starting to spray incisive passes…and again it’s Martins threatening goal as he chases one down…he seems to be one-on-one with goal but is rapidly crowded out by a collaborative pincer motion by Inkoom & Vorsah. Yakubu is now on, replacing Odemwingie (and surprisingly not the less-enterprising Martins).
73 min: Yakubu’s first “chance” as a rifled cross unknowingly ricochets off his thigh and not toooo far wide of the post.
83 min: I’m writing some work emails.
87 min: Kingson is redeeming the reputation of African goalkeeping after the high comedy we’ve witnessed this tournament. He’s come off his line to bravely break up several dangerous balls the Nigerians are putting into the box. Dunno if you’ve taken a look at the girth of Obasi/Martins/Yakubu, but repeatedly bashing into them in mid-air requires some fortitude.
FULLTIME! GHANA 1-0 NIGERIA!!! The Black Stars, despite missing virtually all of theirmost famous names, are through to their first CAN final since they were runners-up in 1992.
So, U-20 World Cup-winning Black Starlets like Inkoom (20 y/o), Addy (19, and the nerviest looking of the youthmen), and Andre Ayew (20) have acquitted themselves marvelously, thickening the Ghanian squad sauce (???) as we simmer towards the GrownUp World Cup in June. I have to say I’m pleased to see Nigeria dumped out of the tournament here…they were pretty rough on the eyes. Cheers to Ghana, and stay tuned for Egypt-Algeria!