Fate Of Hearts, Liberty To Be Decided Today
For Ghana's Accra Hearts of Oak and Liberty Professionals, their respective CAF matches in Tunisia this evening represent more than just ordinary football competitions.
The two clubs bear the flag of the nation in the North African country as they engage their Tunisian counterparts in the second leg encounters of CAF club competitions.
And when the moment dawns, Hearts will defend a slender 1-0 advantage against Etoile du Sahel in Sousse in the Champions League, while Liberty carry the 3-2 first leg Confederations Cup win over Stade Tunisien into the Olympic Stadium in Tunis in miniature Ghana versus Tunisia contests.
In their solemn moments, the two ambassadors have played down on what appears a long journey up north, and have rather inspired confidence in the entire nation, watching from afar.
“We did it in Mali and in Angola,” Hearts' Coach Ernst Middendorp boasts in strong words, perhaps intended to deal with any perssimism entertained back home.The 2000 African champions have improved their earlier games with the striking pair of Emmanuel Osei Kuffour and Louis Agyemang enacting pleasing moves that have produced good results for the club.
Indeed, apart from the first leg in Accra, either Kuffour or Louis, or both, scored in recent games of Hearts, who have relied on the striking strength of Bernard Dong Bortey,Lawrence Adjei and Ablade Morgan as bonus advantage.
Lawrence Adjah Tetteh and Francis Bossman have also provided steel in the Hearts midfield, while Dan Quaye and skipper Amankwah Mireku have plied the lateral defence zones with eagle eyes, although in a quality not to the standard Kwabena Boafo and latest sensation, Acquah Harrison, have manned the centre of the team's rear.
But goalkeeper Sammy Adjei's influence will be crucial to Hearts' chances of survival as his defence faces Obiakor Okechukwu and Nour Amiokachi, the two-pronged strike force of the Tunisian side.Yet, in spite of the class of Etoile's forwardline, their biggest advantage lies in goalkeeper Ousten Ijid and central defender Kais Zumeghi, the two men whose contribution ensured that Hearts' advances at goal were restricted in the first leg.
It is from these points that the two teams will seek a claim for a slice of the about $5 million available in this year's competition as they fight to enter the money zone.In Tunis, Liberty has an underdog status as their chief advantage.On their maiden appearance in continental football, the Ghanaian side is a virtual non-entity in African football, despite their 5-2 spanking of Angola's Petro Huambo.
Although Stade themselves are no great achievers on the continent, Ziadi Tarek in particular, Ndiaye Abdul Yaro and Daasi Bessam are dangerous performers upfront whose speed and team play would require the full commitment of Liberty's Issifu Ansah, Samuel Hansen and Mustapha Essuman.
The ability of Michael Helegbe, Felix Baffoe and David Boateng to slot in a goal will be Liberty's lifeline to clinch a place among the last eight.