By Yemi Babalola Lagos, Nigeria.
The Gabon 2017 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is at the penultimate stages of semi-finals, where Burkina-Faso would be slugging it out with North African giants Egypt, and West African compatriots Cameroon would take on Ghana respectively. It must be noted that the remaining teams are being managed by foreigners, Hugo Broos manages Cameroon, Hector Cuper manages Egypt; Avram Grant manages Ghana and Paulo Duarte manages Burkina-faso, these are the four coaches still standing as AFCON 2017 move into the semi-finals.
Looking inwards into the camps of the semi-finalists, half of the Burkinabes are playing their Africa Cup of Nations finals, with any of the in their early 20’s merged with some other experienced legs like Patriopa and Bounce making up the balance for the team. Jonathan Pitroipa, named the best player of the AFCON 2013 tournament, and Spanish-based striker Jonathan Zongo were ruled out in the opening week after knee injuries. But the manager Paulo Duarte has confirmed the availability of other players to slug it out with Egypt on Feburary 1, 2017 and the team’s ambition burns brightly as they seek another chance to win their first major title.
In the Egyptian camp, Argentine manager Hector Cuper has expressed his worries over the little recovery time his players have before their match against Burkina Faso on Wednesday. Egypt and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny will not recover from injury in time to ace Burkina Faso in Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final. The 24-year-old is still nursing a calf problem that kept him out Sunday’s 1-0 quarter-final win over Morocco. Egypt will face Burkina Faso in their semi-final in Libreville on Wednesday and they are likely to be without striker Marwan Mohsen for that game according to the manager. Egypt are just emerging from seven years away without participating in the finals and were fortunate to win Sunday’s quarter-final over Morocco.
While, in the camp of Cameroon, the players did not show up on Monday 30, January 2017 for training over bonus rows with the government of Cameroon. The team managed by Hugo Broos are asking for their qualification bonus and semi finals in the tune of 12 million Central African Francs per player. The players have demanded that the government meet their demands by paying the full amount before they can go back to training to prepare for semi-finals in Franceville on Thursday against Ghana. The odds are however stacked against Cameroon who have only managed one win against Ghana in their past seven meetings, drawn thrice and lost thrice. Though the Cameroonians would have had one more day rest than their Ghanaian counterparts coming into their next fixture.
As for the Ghanaians, it has been confirmed that the Black Stars have arrived the town of Bongoville which houses their base camp situated near Franceville on Monday 30, 2017 ahead of their semifinal clash with Cameroon. The team is hoping that their injured Captain Asamoah Gyan who picked up a knock in Ghana’s loss to Egypt in Port Gentil, would be fit before Thursday when they take on Cameroon. Other players have been training under the supervision of their manager Avram Grant. Ghana’s Avram Grant says his team deserve respect following criticism by some fans and sections of the media. Grant’s side are in the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations but that has not stopped some Ghanaians expressing dissatisfaction with the performances. Hopefully, the Ayew brothers-Jordan and Andre who have raised their level in Gabon and have provided comfort to coach Avram Grant would continue their fine form.
In conclusion, it should be noted that of the semi-finalists, Egypt are seven times champions of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), Cameroon and Ghana, are both four-time African champions, and Burkina Faso would be hoping to make it to the finals and win their first AFCON title.