Three of the four teams remaining in the 2012 Cup of Nations at the time of writing [Tuesday 7 February, 2012] are from West Africa: Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and Ghana are set to play in the tournament semi-finals on Wednesday 8, 2012. Games will be played in Bata, Equatorial Guinea (Ghana) and at Libreville, Gabon (Mali vs Côte d'Ivoire). They are joined by Zambia, participating in their first semi-finals for 16 years.
The 3-0 quarter-final victory of Zambia against Sudan revived the hopes of supporters. A goal from defender Stopilla Sunzu in the fifteenth minute, followed by a second after 66 minutes from Captain Chris Katongo and another four minutes from the end by James Chamanga, clinched Zambia's first semi-final place since 1996.
Congratulations Zambia. You deserve it :) It may have occurred at the dismay of Sudan (another well improved team), but Zambia has now really set the world stage with great finesse. Good job
silvanorsa7 in South Africa added:
We are with you all the way Zambia…. the only Southern African country still in the competition! Viva Chris Katongo
Vicente Vizo Ngobeni tweeted:
@Mahuntsu: People are undermining Zambia. #Afcon2012
And Sipho Mazibuko replied:
@msiphola: They'so focused, they got a chance. Ghana is not convincing
Meanwhile, the Elephants of Côte d'Ivoire secured their seventh semi-final place since 1970, beating Equatorial Guinea, one of the host countries, 3-0.
The Eagles of Mali overcame the Panthers of Gabon with a 5-4 penalty shootout victory following a full time 1-1 draw:
The Black Stars of Ghana confirmed their place in the semis with goals from John Mensah and André Ayew giving a 2-1 victory over Tunisia. Tunisia held the score at 1-1 until injury time before bowing out after a 101st minute blunder from their goalkeeper, Aymen Mathlouthi, gave Ghana their second goal.
There is a great atmosphere of celebration and interest surrounding this tournament. From Mali to Zambia, fans have shared their excitement as well as their predictions regarding the 28th Africa Cup of Nations Final, scheduled to take place on Sunday 12 February, in Stade de l'Amitié, Libreville, Gabon.
Fans shared reactions on Twitter [fr]:
Swithin Swaray went further on Facebook, giving his opinion of some weak points of the Ghana team:
The Black Star has not got what it takes to win CAN2012….30 years down the line, we are still counting. Lacking ideas up front, no fire power, no man daring enough to shoot from around the 18.
Ghana and Mali each got the better of their respective opponents after long matches of more than 120 minutes. Will they have the necessary energy and stamina to face Zambia and the Côte d'Ivoire?
The semi-finals of Wednesday 8 February will reveal the answer.