Ghana, Ivory Coast Afcon clash promises to be a mouth-watering affair

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The African Cup of Nations has probably got the final it wanted. Star-studded Ivory Coast and Ghana, Africa’s most recent World Cup quarter-finalist, will meet tonight in the decider in Equatorial Guinea.

There will be many Europe-based talent on display, with Yaya Toure, Gervinho and Wilfried Bony for Ivory Coast going up against Ghana’s Andre Ayew, Christian Atsu and Asamoah Gyan, if he recovers from injury.

For one of the West African soccer powers, a long and painful wait will come to an end. For the other, the agony will be extended for at least two years. Ivory Coast, blessed recently with some of Africa’s top soccer talent, hasn’t won the cup of nations since its only title in 1992, when it beat Ghana in a penalty shootout.

Ghana’s wait has been even longer, with the last of its four triumphs over 30 years ago. The Ivorian’s have lost two finals in the last six tournaments, one of them when current coach Herve Renard led underdog Zambia to an unexpected triumph in 2012. Now leading Ivory Coast, Renard says the title drought should come to an end this weekend.

Herve Renard has been playing mind games before tonight’s final.

The Frenchman suggested that Ghana were favourites. However, he says history favours his team. Renard says it’s time for the Elephants of Ivory Coast to shine.

“The both teams lost their last two finals, may be the psychological advantage is in 1992. The last time Ivory Coast won the Africa Cup it was against Ghana on penalties. All the people are expecting the black stars to win, so this consideration for us is not very important, no. The most important for us is to be focussed on our target. We know why we came to this tournament. May be we didn’t talk a lot, because it not time to talk, it’s time to play.”

The trophy which has also eluded Ghana for over 30-years, is the number one priority for Ghana’s coach Avram Grant, who took charge the Black Stars a few months before the African football showpiece started. Grant has managed to lead the Ghanaians to the final of the 2015 Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. Grant says whatever happens in the final match tonight, the Ghanaian people will have much to celebrate.

“This is one more last more challenge, but this is the last one for this tournament, we will try to do our best. When I say we will try, before we wanted to do it on the pitch. This group of the players i think show they know how to fight, and they know how to play football. And if I can say, all the Ghanaian people can be proud of this team.”

Last night, 2015 Africa Cup of Nations hosts Equatorial Guinea ended their tournament on a low note as they lost the third-place playoff 4-2 on penalties after drawing 0-0 with Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday.

Javier Balboa and Raul Fabiani both missed their spot kicks, while all four DR Congo penalty takers found the net, with Cedric Mongongu firing home the decisive kick. Although supporters largely stayed away from the playoff after the fan violence that marked Equatorial Guinea’s semi-final defeat to Ghana on Thursday, those in attendance created a fitting atmosphere for the hosts’ final match.

The two defeated semi-finalists played out a low-key but well-tempered 0-0 draw and had to be separated by the first penalty shootout of the 2015 event.

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