Ghana v Equatorial Guinea: Hosts hoping to keep AFCON dream alive

AFCON hosts Equatorial Guinea face Ghana on Thursday looking to put their recent controversy behind them and reach a first final.

Equatorial Guinea hope to continue their fairytale journey at the Africa Cup of Nations by beating Ghana to reach Sunday's final.

The hosts were a late entrant this year after agreeing to host the tournament in place of Morocco following the Ebola outbreak, and in only their second appearance they are just one game away from a first final.

Progression has not been without its controversy, though, with their quarter-final win over Tunisia still a hot topic.

Having converted a controversial penalty in the final minute of normal time in Bata, Equatorial Guinea went on to secure a 2-1 win thanks to Javier Balboa's second goal of the night after 102 minutes.

Referee Seechurn Rajindraparsad was confronted after the final whistle by Tunisia's players and officials, and the official has been suspended for six months for "poor performance" and delisted from the Confederation of African Football's elite panel.

Head coach Esteban Becker is keen to move on from the controversy, and hopes his side can continue their impressive form to qualify for the final.

"Each game is a different story," he said. "Ghana is coming now. We are just thinking on winning the game because we want to carry on making history. We are happy but we want something else

"A month ago this team didn't have history, these players believe in something special now. 

"Not in good luck, also in the work they have to do. They believe in how they have to attack and how they have to defence. Just live every single moment of the football game."

While Equatorial Guinea are new to the pressures of a semi-final, things are very different for four-time winners Ghana.

The west African nation have reached this stage 12 times before – including the last four tournaments – but have not lifted the trophy since 1982.

Avram Grant has provided new defensive strength since taking charge in November, two months after former coach Kwesi Appiah was relieved of his position folllowing a disappointing World Cup.

Ghana have only conceded three goals so far, although they have struggled to exert their dominance in attack, which has led to criticism.

Grant has been quick to defend his forwards, though, particularly Lorient's Jordan Ayew.

"Jordan Ayew is a very good player and am sure he will give a lot to the national team in the future," said Grant. "You can't stop people from talking. It's normal for people to speak about the players.

"People can speak about the mistakes they make but they need to respect the players and not to hang the players for their mistakes. Because these players giving everything to the national team."

Thursday's clash will be the first meeting between the two nations, with either the Ivory Coast or Democratic Republic of Congo waiting in the final.