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Ghana, Zambia face-off in African Cup semis

BATA – Ghana will have to overcome some tired legs to beat tricky opponent Zambia in the African Cup of Nations semifinals on Wednesday. Bidding for its second straight continental final, Ghana needed a goal from Andre Ayew in the 101st minute to beat Tunisia 2-1 in extra time in Sunday’s quarterfinals.

A delay in the flight from Gabon to Equatorial Guinea then hampered plans for training on Monday. Although Zambia had a relatively routine 3-0 victory over Sudan and has enjoyed an extra day of rest at the team’s base in Bata, Ghana is still favored to win and set up a final meeting with either Ivory Coast or Mali.

“They’ve had one day more (to prepare) than us, they stayed in the same place while we traveled, but it’s no excuse,” Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan said. “We’ve come here to make sure we qualify for the final.”

The colorful forward, who has his No. 3 shirt dyed into the hair on both sides of his head, was struggling with hamstring and ankle injuries in the run-up to the tournament but is in no doubt of his worth to the team.

“It’s been really difficult with my condition and everything, but I’m very important to the team and the other players look to me,” Gyan said. “If you’ve got a very important player in the team it motivates the players.

“I’m not in top-top shape, everybody knows that … but I’m feeling better now we are getting toward the trophy. I’m going to do my best and see what happens.”

Ghana coach Goran Stevanovic said the players could overcome the hindered buildup.

“We have a short time to prepare,” Stevanovic said at Tuesday’s pre-match news conference. “But the most important thing is our morale and our personality. We have all this and I’m sure we will be ready for tomorrow’s game.”

Zambia coach Herve Renard said his team was capable of springing an upset.

“When you’ve already qualified for the semifinal, if you are not able to beat the big team you don’t deserve to go to the final,” Renard said. “That means for us there’s no pressure. There’s only maybe a fantastic moment at the end of the game. We are all very happy to be there and very proud.”

A win for Zambia would set up an emotional appearance in the final in Libreville, where 25 players and officials were killed in a plane crash in 1993.

Zambia topped its group and comfortably beat Sudan in the quarterfinals during an impressive campaign so far. Captain Christopher Katongo said the team’s togetherness could help set up a first final appearance since 1994.

“We are going to be 11 against 11 and we don’t have pressure. The pressure is on them—they have to beat us,” Katongo said. “Our pressure is to beat the people at the top.

“If we can play as a team, I think Ghana is beatable.” – Agencies

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