As the Africa Cup of Nations enters its semifinals, the tournament is an interesting display of contrast. Two of the teams featuring in the semifinals, Ivory Coast and Ghana, are continental superpowers. Their opponents, Equatorial Guinea and DR Congo, are anything but continental superpowers.
And that, of course, is what makes these tournaments so much fun. Below, you’ll find the schedule, odds and a preview of the semifinal matchups.
It’s one thing for the host nation to get a bump in any tournament and outplay expectations. It’s quite another for a country like Equatorial Guinea to take that momentum and ride it all the way into the semifinals.
The hosts are playing the role of Rocky Balboa in this tournament, a fitting metaphor considering their star player has been midfielder Javier Balboa, who fired them past Tunisia in the quarterfinals with a penalty to level the game in regulation and a brilliant 30-yard free kick in extra time.
Still, it’s hard to imagine Equatorial Guinea getting past Ghana, arguably the most talented team in this tournament and the squad that topped a group of death that included Algeria, Senegal and South Africa. Led by emergent striker Kwesi Appiah, Christian Atsu and Andre Ayew, the Black Stars are hardly short of athleticism or pace.
“I play a lot of games for Ghana. I cannot say which is my best performance,” he said after the game, via Sam Crocker of ESPNFC. “My fans judge my games.”
It’s hard to imagine his fans have ever been more impressed with him than they were during his quarterfinal performance.
And then there’s Ivory Coast, the country that tantalizes with its superstars but always seems to come up small when it matters the most. This year’s squad certainly isn’t lacking in talent, from striker Wilfried Bony to all-world midfielder Yaya Toure and dynamic winger Gervinho.
It’s hard to see DR Congo getting past Ivory Coast. It barely squeaked past Congo, winning 3-2 after conceding the game’s first two goals, and it has neither the talent nor the defensive discipline that Herve Renard has brought to Ivory Coast.
Well, should the Ivory Coast actually live up to its potential in this tournament, that is.