Ghana has everything to lose against Cape Verde in CAN quarter-final
Will Cape Verde turn out to be giant killers when they face Ghana's Black Stars in Saturday's CAN quarter-final?
There would be a tectonic shift in perceptions if Cape Verde were to beat Ghana in the quarter-final of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
As the wine and tears of joy flowed throughout the island chain, heads would be rolling along the corridors of the Ghana Football Association.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah would do well to even get the chance to emulate French actor Gérard Depardieu and seek Russian citizenship.
The Black Stars are the continent’s aristocracy. They’ve been to 18 of the 29 Africa Cup fo Nations. They’ve won four of them. They’ve lost in four finals too.
In their pantheon are Abedi Pele and Anthony Yeboah; fabled names from the mythical times of African football.
Cape Verde boast no such pedigree. They are the parvenus; at the Cup of Nations for the first time. Under coach Lucio Antunes, they staged a coup by beating the four times champions Cameroon in the qualifiers. They announced themselves to the tournament by their opening day 0-0 draw against South Africa.
And they showed that wasn’t just beginner’s luck by drawing with Morocco. Coming from behind to beat Angola merely confirmed their growing stature.
“We have to have a plan as to how to beat Cape Verde,” says Ghana winger Albert Adomah. “I’ve seen them play and they’ve done really well. To get a last-minute victory against Angola which got them through is impressive. I know they’re a small island but at this tournament it doesn’t matter if you’re small or big, everyone’s got hope.”
Clearly the week that Antunes spent shadowing Real Madrid coach José Mourinho just before the tournament is bearing fruit.
After steering his side to the knockout stage, the 46-year-old ran the length and breadth of the Port Elizabeth pitch flourishing a Cape Verde flag. It was très jeune, José.
If Antunes guides Cape Verde past Ghana and into the semi-finals, he might even soon be competing with the self-styled Special One for some of the top coaching jobs.
Ghana will be a tough nut to crack though. The weight of expectation bore heavily on the team in Gabon last year. It seemed that by reaching the final in Angola in 2010, victory in the subsequent tournament was assumed. Zambia accounted for them in the semi-final and Mali beat them in the third place play-off.
Coach Goran Stevanovic left and was replaced by Appiah, who’d been his assistant. In the interim Kwadwo Asamoah has become a kingpin in the Juventus midfield – doubtless learning from the wily veteran Andrea Pirlo. Asamoah oozes class, while striker Asamoah Gyan is his ever-silky, mercurial self.
Isaac Vorsah has established an uncompromising presence to the back line marshalled by the veteran John Paintsil.
Ryan Mendes will create openings for Cape Verde; the question is do forwards such as Platini and Antonio Varela have the composure to convert?
The last eight in the Africa Cup of Nations will be the biggest tie in the lives for a swathe of the Cape Verde team. Half a million souls back home will be dreaming them on in this most unlikeliest of west African derbies.
And how they would love it, just love it if they shook up the posh boys from across the seas.