Favorite Ghana out to avoid loss as Zambia plots ambush

Favorite Ghana out to avoid loss as Zambia plots ambush

BATA - Agence France-Presse
Favorite Ghana out to avoid loss as Zambia plots ambush

Ghana’s Andre Ayew (2L) celebrates his goal with teammates during their African Nations Cup quarterfinal match against Tunisia at Franceville Stadium in Gabon. REUTERS photo

The heat will be on Ghana and off Zambia when they clash in this steamy port city today with a place in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations final at stake.

“Playing in the final is the least everyone expects from us,” admitted Serb coach Goran Stevanovic ahead of the semifinal showdown at the 35,000-seat Estadio de Bata.

“We relish being among the favorites and there is additional pressure on the team because I have told them many times that Ghana must win the Cup of Nations for the first time in 30 years.”

Severely depleted Ghana finished runners-up to Egypt in the 2010 final and later that year became only the third African country to reach the World Cup quarterfinals before losing on penalties to Uruguay.

By reaching the penultimate stage of the biennial African football showcase for the first time since 1996, Zambia has met the pre-tournament target of French coach Herve Renard.

“There is no more pressure on us,” said Renard, “and now we can dream of going all the way to the final. Ghana are favorites, but we will be prepared for them.”

Playing in the February 12 decider would have special significance for the Copper Bullets as it will be hosted by Gabon, off whose coast a plane carrying the 1993 Zambian squad crashed with no survivors among the 30 on board.

“Imagine if we could lift the trophy in Libreville -- it would be a fantastic way to honor the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the land they loved,” added Renard.

Ghana has won two of three previous Cup of Nations matches between the countries.