By Ben Efe
Ghana and Ivory Coast are set for the final of the Africa Cup of Nations that will be decided this evening at the Bata Stadium in Equatorial Guinea. Both teams are determined to shake off the toga of nearly men having failed to win the title since 1992 when they played in the final in Dakar, Senegal.
Ghana have won four finals the last being in 1982, Ivory Coast beat Ghana 11-10 after a marathon shoot-out to win their only AFCON trophy almost 23 years ago.
Before the Equatorial Guinea tournament, the Elephants have reached two finals in 2006 in Egypt and 2012 in Gabon/ Equatorial Guinea, they lost to Zambia in the ensuring penalty shoot-out. Ghana reached one final and that was in 2010 in Angola, the Black Stars lost to Egypt.
The two West African giants reached the 2015 final with pump as they blasted their way with emphatic victories against their quarter-final and semi-final opponents. The Elephants and the Black Stars scored six goals apiece.
This is an indication that the match will be quite explosive and certainly there wouldn’t be a repeat of the 1992 final where players were too weary to take their penalty kicks.
The pressure will be on the Ivorians who are itching to win the trophy to make up for their misses even as they were tipped to win, because of the high individual quality of players in their team. One of such is Yaya Toure who has won the African player-of the year award four times in a row. Toure has been trying for nine years to lay his hands on the trophy and this could be his year even though he has only had one good match so far and that was the semi-final game against Congo DR.
Toure struggled with the Elephants during the group stages, but once they got their acts together during the last game against Cameroon, the Ivorians they had what it takes to be champions.
In Gervinho and Wilfred Bony the Ivorians have fire power that could make the Black Stars sweat. However, the Blacks Stars have not also lacked players who can make the difference. Christians Atsu Andre Ayew and his brother Jordan are in excellent form.
Ghana coach Avram Grant said he is looking forward to a tough game. But his side will seize the day.
“ Before the tournament, nobody gave us a chance. Everyone talked about the other teams. Now we are in the final and we would want to win the cup,”
French-born Ivorian coach Renard who won the cup with Zambia in 2012 believes that he has options that could swing the game his way.
“In football you have to be very strong from behind,” added Renard. “If you are not, you can’t win anything, and we have a chance to be able to score any time with the players we have like Gervinho, Wilfried Bony, Max Gradel. You have to put something very strong there to allow them to be free so they can make the difference.”