Will Ghana win their first CHAN trophy?

Libya have surmounted even tougher challenges, not least a dysfunctional domestic league and scars of political unrest and civil war.

The teams’ meeting at the Cape Town Stadium at the close of the tournament is a chance to put the cherry on top of what has been an unbelievable triumph against the odds. More so for Libya, whose team had players as young as 18 and 19 years of age, who were exposed to the rigours of continental competition.

But they have stood up to the challenge and wore the underdog tag with pride.

Mohamed Elgadi -who bears a striking resemblance to Brazilian defender David Luiz -put his well-being on the line for the Libyan cause against an impressive Zimbabwe in the semifinals.

Libya’s 23-year-old midfielder was the symbol of the tenacity of his countrymen, who are picking up the pieces back home following the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year oppressive reign.

The Black Stars, on the other hand, have played under the pressure of expectation. Their ultra-defensive formation, their goal-starved matches and rigid approach suggested they were crumbling under the pressure.

But their defeat of Nigeria-a team coached by the wizardly Stephen Keshi-showed how seriously they had taken the competition all along. The Ghanaians won on penalties after being a man down for almost an hour, including extra time.

Ghana were not here to potter about with selections, formation and style -they were here to win the tournament and play a style that would afford them that chance. Even if that meant averaging less than a goal per game, they were happy not to concede.

Indeed they let in just one goal in the tournament in five matches-a dubiously awarded penalty to Libya in their group C clash -which shows how disciplined their structure has been.

Nigeria, with all the trickery of Ejike Uzoenyi and Abubakar Ibrahim, could not breach the Black Stars defence, even as they went to Bloemfontein buoyed by their 4-3 comeback win over Morocco in the previous round.

“People back home will start to believe that there is something in these boys, but they have to be patient and wait to see what they can actually do,” Ghana coach Maxwell Konadu said.

“Steadily and gradually we climbed up the ladder despite our supporters not having confidence in this team.

“We knew Nigeria was going to be very difficult and we won the match not as the better team but as a team that was really organised. We were playing a team that was scoring at will, so we needed to be cautious. We know Libya very well, and they also know us, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” he said.

Libya coach Javier Clemente, the former Spain midfielder, said that he was not worried about fatigue ahead of the final, considering his men played to back-to-back penalty shoot-outs in the knockout stages.

Cape Town has so far shown its appreciation for the Chan tournament. Supporters have been filling the stands during the games and there is little doubt that they would turn out in their numbers to watch the close of a tournament that has given them much to smile and cry about.

One feels the chant of “BaGhana-BaGhana” will sound the loudest.


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