HE'S BEHIND YOU: Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi, left, tackles Ivory Coast's Salomon Kalou
THE FINAL destination of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations has now only four possibilities for a new home – Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali or Nigeria.
The notable absence from the above list of contenders are perennial underachievers Ivory Coast, who were knocked out yesterday (February 4) at the quarter-final stage, losing 2-1 to Nigeria. That defeat ensured bitter disappointment for the Elephants golden generation, especially the country’s lead striker Didier Drogba. And now it would appear the sun has all but set on the 34-year-old’s dream of lifting the trophy.
After Nigeria had sealed their win with goals from Emmanuel Emenike and Sunday Mba, both coming either side of Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote’s headed goal from a Drogba free-kick, the former Chelsea forward said, “It’s over” – a frank appraisal of his chances of winning the tournament.
Ivory Coast’s barren spell in the competition goes over a decade back before Drogba was grabbing headlines – an epic 1992 penalty shoot-out against Ghana was the last time the Elephants were crowned African champions.
However, Nigeria will go into their semi-final match against Mali full of confidence, believing they can claim silverware. Yet Mali are not short of self-belief either, having sent hosts South Africa packing in the previous round with a penalty shoot-out win after the tie ended 1-1 in normal time.
The other semi-final sees Ghana face Burkina Faso. The West African neighbours, who share a border, play their match this Wednesday (February 6), and the Ghanaians are the firm favourites to progress into the final.
Burkina Faso beat Emmanuel Adebayor’s Togo in the quarter-final 1-0; Jonathan Pitroipa headed in the winner in extra time. Nigeria’s progression into the latter stages came with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Cape Verde – a brace from Mubarak Wakaso confirmed their place in the last four.
Fans of the Black Stars have immense expectations pinned on their team, and the players must be feeling the pressure as Ghana’s last title was secured over 30 years ago in 1982 when they beat Libya 7-6 in a penalty shoot-out.
Where as Burkina Faso have never lifted the cup, yet this year’s run in the tournament equals their previous best run of reaching semi-finals in 1998.