As massively predicted, the Black Antelopes of Angola gave Ghana’s Black Stars a good run for their money in the third-round tie of the 2024 Nations Cup qualifiers at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi, last Thursday.
Albeit the Angolans capitulated at the death and excruciatingly threw away a point they would have deserved – courtesy Antoine Semenyo’s last-gasp poker, the south-western Africans strongly demonstrated why they cannot be taken for granted.
Ebullient and dogged in attitude, the Antelopes matched the Stars squarely in all aspects of the nerve-jangling afternoon’s win that sent the hosts three points clear on top of Group E.
The Antelopes’ defeat left them drooling in third place – but on same points (four) with the Central African Republic (CAR) who secured their first victory of the campaign on a captivating fashion – posting a super-stunning 3-0 away win against Madagascar in Antananarivo.
Today at 4pm, it would be the turn of the Angolans to play before their treasured crowd at the Estadio 11 de Novembro – chasing nothing but victory to revive qualification hopes.
Anything aside a positive result could be detrimental to the aspirations of the home contingent as only two teams make it from the cagey group.
Manuel Alfonso, Kialonda Gaspar and M’BalaNzolaamong others, were quite imposing in the Kumasi tie – creating lots of hell for the Ghanaian backline that had Denis Odoi, Gideon Mensah, Daniel Amartey and Alexander Djiku.
Though they did not concede, the Stars’ rear showed quite a disconcerting degree of fragility when under attack – and this should be a matter of grave concern for Coach Chris Hughton.
Rather remarkably, stand-in Captain Thomas Partey, had a compellingly impressive afternoon in midfield as he stroke the ball well and ventured forward when it mattered most.
Should the Arsenal brainy midfielder do an encore this afternoon, Ghana should be goaded to a much delectable performance than what they advertised back home, four days ago.
Overall, Ajax star and Ghana’s current poster-boy, Mohammed Kudus, failed to light up the field with his intimidating footwork and finesse – an asset many Ghanaians would be eager to see today.
It is not too clear whether Hughton will stick to his previous 4-2-3-1 game-plan. What is limpidly clear is that, the man who fetched that 96th-minute heart-stopping-winner for the Stars – Semenyo, would attract the cynosure of all eyes this afternoon. That should afford his teammates some space to manoeuvre.
Nevertheless, the PalancasNegras – as the Angolans are also called, would be expected to stage a ferocious fight throughout the duration with double vengeance clearly embossed on their minds.
In front of their pet crowd 13 years ago, the Antelopes saw a determined band of talented Ghanaian youngsters blow them out of a Nations Cup they were hosting with AsamoahGyan’s 21st minute spectacular strike, settling matters. That quarter-final defeat was a cut-throat and the Angolans have since been looking forward to the grand opportunity to pay the Stars back in their own coin.
That supposed retaliation, was to be executed in Kumasi – but blew up in their face.
Today, another difficult redemption mission is about to roar off at the Estadio 11 de Novembro, but it would – once again, come against an irrepressible Ghanaian side that has also vowed to snatch a 10th AFCON qualification ticket with victory.
BY JOHN VIGAH