The most lethal attack collides with the meanest defence when Ghana and Senegal meet in the CAF African Nations Championship semi-finals. The Black Stars scored six goals in the mini-league, more than any other contender for the title, while tomorrow's opponents conceded none in the maiden edition of the tournament.
They will encounter in the central Ivorian textile city of Bouake, while Zambia and Congo DR meet four hours later in Abidjan.
After coming from behind to force draws with Zimbabwe and Libya, Ghana finally clicked to outclass Congo DR 3-0 on Sunday, and justify their position as joint-top seeds and title favourites. Midfielders Ibrahim Ayew, eldest son of former African Footballer of the Year Abedi 'Pele' Ayew, and captain Edmund Owusu Ansah have been their chief goal-getters to date, with two apiece. The Ayew brace proved particularly important as it wiped out a two-goal advantage built by outsiders Zimbabwe, while the first Owusu Ansah strike cancelled a lead Libya held for much of their match.
Now they come up against Senegal, who conceded one goal in four qualifiers against Mali and Guinea and none in Group A encounters with Tanzania, Zambia and Côte d'Ivoire . Captain and defender Sidy Ndiaye said his country carried a heavy burden into the tournament, after they failed to make the final qualifying round for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
"This competition offers those of us representing Senegal with a challenge to restore the dignity of the national team after its elimination from the 2010 World Cup and African Nations Cup," he told reporters. Coach Joseph Koto has been upbeat since the two-week tournament kicked off: "Everything is possible as I have a young team that is disciplined and hungry for success."
Zambia and Congo DR have slipped after strong starts, and both came close to not making the last four as the group phase reached a dramatic climax at the weekend. Defender Dennis Banda scored four minutes into stoppage time to deprive Tanzania of victory and lift the Zambians from third place to first in Group A, while the central Africans survived only because Zimbabwe and Libya failed to take advantage by playing to a goalless draw.
Zambia's Given Singuluma and Mabi Mputu of Congo DR are proven scorers, and share a passion to play professionally in Europe. The former undid Côte d'Ivoire with a hat-trick but has not found the net since, while the latter, once linked with Arsenal, created both goals against Libya before finding the net against Zimbabwe.