After losing gallantly to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun in their semi-final duel in Accra yesterday, the Black Stars of Ghana are now heading for Kumasi to gun for the Africa Nations bronze medal.The third place match, to be played on Saturday, will not only provide an opportunity for Kumasi fans to appreciate the current brilliance of the Stars but also be a chance to claim some honour for the Stars' relentless hard work.
In the steamy semi-final match against Cameroun yesterday, substitute Nkong Alain ended Ghana's fifth Nations Cup title dream with a 70th minute drive as the 40,000 capacity Ohene Djan Stadium went dead and the players broke down in uncontrollable tears.
The Black Stars had dominated all evening, but as fate would have it, none of their surging runs and countless corner kicks worked from the start of the second half.
The Camerounians exhibited character and experience, even in the face of their stamina suspicion. Seven-time Nations Cup player, Rigobert Song, the lych-pin around which the Camerounian defence revolved, his nephew, Alex, and rasta-haired Bikey Amougou were solid and compact at the back as Ghana's long kicks were all foiled.
By the first 15 minutes of the second half it was obvious that the day was not for the Black Stars as nothing including the introduction of Baffour Gyan, senior brother of Asamoah Gyan, worked. Junior Agog's header which rammed off the cross bar in the 75th minute and Andre Ayew's goal-bound curler minutes earlier were loud enough to send the appropriate signals to coach Claude Le Roy who won the Cup with Cameroun in 1988 in Morocco.
Even with the absence of Bikey, who was shown the red card during time added on after hitting one of the red cross men who had come to attend to goalkeeper Idris Kameni, the Camerounians held onto their solitary lead.It was a re-enactment of the Ghana-Nigeria match when the Stars won with 10 men. Barely five minutes after coming on for Desire Job, Alain joined Eto'o in a counter attack, raced with the ball and shot the ball past goalkeeper Richard Kingson.
The Stadium went dead silent briefly but the fans urged the boys on in anticipation of a repeat of what happened during the Nigerian match when the Stars fought from a goal down to win 2-1.
Backed by drum-beating and ceaseless clapping from the stands, the Stars went all out in search of the equaliser but all their firing power were unsuccessful.
Coach Cluade Le Roy played most of his important arsenal in the midfield in the first half as lone striker Junior Agogo could hardly make any impact, apart from wearing down the Camerounian defence.
Eric Addo should have given Ghana the lead in the fifth minute but failed to connect Sulley Muntari's free kick from the flank.
With only goalkeeper Idris Kameni to beat, he allowed the ball to fly over his head to the chagrin of the packed crowd.
The impatient fans could not contain the pressure any longer and directed their anger at Moroccan referee Abderahim who let go many infringements against Ghana.
But those decisions did not deter the confident Black Stars who surged forward, but Andre Dede Ayew could not connect a 45th minute chance for the Stars.
Three-time African footballer of the year, Samuel Eto'o, was completely anonymous and his real threat was in the eighth minute when he collided with goalkeeper Richard Kingson in a mid-air tussle and then decided to withdraw into the middle.
But anywhere he went he was religiously followed by Michael Essien who played absent skipper John Mensah's libero role with ease.
Dede Ayew who made Coach Le Roy's starting line-up for the first time brought the stadium alive with a replica display of his father's talent, when he took the ball at the last third of the pitch, dribbled past his markers, but his unfamiliar right foot delivery was too feeble to beat Kameni.
That action was immediately rebuffed by Geremie Njitap's trade mark pile driver which ricocheted off the cross bar minutes later in what could have been a surprise goal.
It was indeed a bad day for the Stars who had played four matches and won them all and had looked beyond yesterday's game for a dream final with Cote d'Ivoire or Egypt on Sunday.
Report by Daniel Kenu