WHO will meet Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations final? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) explores the best bets available for Ghana’s meeting with hosts Equatorial Guinea.
Ghana v Equatorial Guinea | Thursday 19.00 | ITV4
Ivory Coast came through their semi-final unscathed with a professional performance against DR Congo and now it’s the turn of fellow African powerhouses Ghana to show their mettle.
The Black Stars are 4/5 (Coral) to progress with a win in 90 minutes and that’s the bet and only bet I’m interested in on Thursday night. It’s not spite (honest). It’s just an honest pick based on what I’ve seen over the last fortnight or so in Equatorial Guinea.
The reason I mention the word ‘spite’ boils down to EG’s quarter-final clash with Tunisia. I’d backed the North Africans outright and they were coasting into the final four before an incredulous refereeing decision in stoppage-time. A penalty was awarded by Mauritian whistler Rajindraparsad Seechurn that turned the tide in favour of the hosts…
Javier Balbao converted before scoring a highly contentious free-kick in extra-time to give the host nation a shock 2-1 victory. Seechurn has since been suspended for six months for what the Confederation of Africa Football described as a “poor performance” whilst after the game, riot police had to protect the match officials from furious Tunisian players. Yeah, it was that serious!
Gabon referee Eric Otogo will be in the spotlight for this match and I find it almost inconceivable that anything similar could be repeated. Not now the eyes of the planet are staring over African football. With the game refereed in a fiar and proper manner, there should really be only one winner.
It’s Ghana’s fifth consecutive semi-final and although the Black Stars have only reached the final once in that run, the four-time winners have improved significantly since an opening-match 2-1 loss to Senegal by beating Algeria, South Africa and Guinea. Guinea were despatched with ease in their last eight showdown and although captain Asamoah Gyan will be missing, Avram Grant’s men still boast the more rounded and talented group of players.
I just hope Grant doesn’t suffocate the side too much, as we saw in the first 135 minutes at the tournament. Should the favourites be released from the shackles, they’ve the potential to repeat their quarter-final performance and silence the partisan home crowd in Malabo on Thursday night.
Equatorial Guinea are making their first ever appearance in the semi-finals and are already unhappy about having to move to Malabo for the game from their fortress in Bata, where they have not lost an international game. Three years ago, it was in Malabo that they were thumped 3-0 by the Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals.
Before a ball was kicked you would have been given huge odds on the hosts reaching the final four and they’ve certainly rode their luck, even without considering the Tunisian controversy. The National Thunder have already faced 19 shots-on-target in the competition, the second-highest in the tournament and 13 more than their opponents, whilst stopper Felipe Ovono has made more saves than any other keeper at AFCON 2015.
Argentine coach Esteban Becker led Equatorial Guinea to the 2012 African women's title but a repeat with the men’s side just looks two steps to far for a side that’s already beaten the odds to get to this point. Back a Ghana win at a very reasonable price of 4/5 with Coral.
Ghana v Equatorial Guinea – Ghana to win (4/5 Coral)
What’s your best bet for the African Cup of Nations semi-final? Will Ghana justify favouritism? Are you backing Equatorial Guinea to go the distance?
Let us know in the comments box below.