Ghana ready for Nigeria challenge

LUANDA - Ghana's new generation continue their bid for the country's first African Nations Cup title in 28 years when they face a Nigeria side that needs freshening up as the World Cup-bound teams clash in Thursday's semi-final.

The Black Stars, who are in Angola without several key experienced players, have had to rely on some of their Under-20 world champions to get past the group stage and knock out host nation Angola in the quarter-finals.

Nigeria, on the other hand, are a little weary after needing a penalty shootout to see off unfancied Zambia in the last eight and then having to travel from Lubango to Luanda for the semi-final at the November 11 stadium.

"There will be (a) need to introduce fresh legs," said Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu.

"Unlike Ghana we went through 120 minutes and penalties on Monday, spent the whole of Tuesday travelling from Lubango to Luanda and we just have to counter that."

Amodu, however, was confident his squad would be up to the task with a few adjustments from Monday's line-up against Zambia.

"Thanks to my rich bench, certain changes will be made. There are one or two injury concerns, I have to find a suitable replacement for (Onyekachi) Apam who was red-carded on Monday," he said.

Nigeria started well against Zambia before being overwhelmed in midfield and had to rely heavily on goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to go through as strikers Peter Odemwingie, Chinedu Obasi and Obafemi Martins failed to make an impact.

"We have to sharpen the attack and stabilise the midfield. These were our greatest areas of worry against Zambia. I have looked at my bench, we have some depth in defence. I need to introduce two or three fresh (pairs of) legs," Amodu added.

GREAT COMPOSUR

Ghana, who won their last Nations Cup in 1982, failed to make the most of home advantage 10 years ago when they bowed out to Cameroon in the semi-finals.

They were not fancied to even reach that stage this year after losing their opener 3-1 to Ivory coast and losing key midfiielder Michael Essien, who joined experienced trio John Mensah, John Paintsil and Stephen Appiah on the injury list.

Yet the Black Stars showed great composure to beat Angola 1-0 last Saturday with a starting lineup that included four players who won the Under-20 World Cup last October.

Frenchman Claude LeRoy, who guided Ghana to the last four two years ago and has had lots of experience in African football having also coached Cameroon, Senegal and DR Congo, believes the Black Stars have what it takes to go through.

"They are a young side, but what I like is that they fight very hard. But they are playing good football, you can see this in their organisation," he told www.fifa.com.

"All I believe is that this side can only get better. That is an advantage of having youngsters playing in a team, with time they gain experience."

But Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac refused to get carried away.

"Though they (Nigeria) did not play so well in the game against Zambia, it will be a big mistake to conclude that they will repeat the same performance in the next game against Ghana," the Serb said.

"We have to be cautious in the game and execute our strategy with the needed perfection."

The winners will face holders Egypt or Algeria in Sunday's final in Luanda.