The Black Meteors have a chance to seal a place at next year’s AFCON later today when they take on Ivory Coast in the first semi-final of the U-23 AFCON tournament.
The Meteors have been in patchy form in Egypt, drawing one, losing one and crucially winning one of their three games so far at the tournament.
They began the competition with a 1-1 draw with Cameroon, gave up two leads in a 3-2 loss to hosts Egypt before snatching a place in the knockout round with a 2-0 win over Mali.
Ivory Coast, on the other hand, won two of their three group games, with a loss to South Africa sandwiched by wins against Nigeria and Zambia.
The Ivorians topped their group ahead of South Africa and face the Meteors, who finished behind Egypt, as a result.
The match kicks off at 2:00 pm at the Cairo International Stadium.
Coaches, players views
Black Meteors coach, Ibrahim Tanko
Tanko expressed his joy over this side’s second-half performances at the AFCON and believes his side are mentally ready for today’s game.
“As a coach, my technical team and I try to identify the weaknesses of our opponents in the first half of our matches and strategize for the second half. That is why in every second half we come out stronger and fight for a win. Mentally, my team goes into every match expecting to win and are physically prepared for the upcoming matches”
Black Meteors captain, Yaw Yeboah
Yeboah believes that having overcome the pressure of making it through the group stage, the Meteors can handle the pressure of qualifying to next year’s Olympics.
“Yes we are under pressure to qualify to the Olympics but we are dealing with the pressure. As players we were able to avoid making mistakes and won the match against Mali despite the pressure on us”.
Ivory Coast coach, Soualiho Haidara
Haidara says he has studied the Black Meteors team extensively ahead of today’s game and has set up his team to counter the Ghanaians despite some key absentees.
“We have to be ready to face Ghana. I studied them well and we are focused and prepared. The semifinal is different from the group stage and we have to beware. We are missing a couple of key players, but whoever plays can do the job.”
Ivory Coast captain, Ismail Diallo
Diallo says he and his teammates will play their best against Ghana as they bid to qualify for the Olympics.
“We will do our best. Now we are just one step away from Tokyo 2020. We play all our games to win whoever the opponent is. Anything can happen against Ghana, and we have to be proud of ourselves now.”
- The Meteors are looking to qualify to the Olympics for the first time since 2004. The side has missed three Olympics tournaments since then.
- The Black Meteors have scored four of their five goals at the AFCON in the second half.
- The Meteors have kept just one clean sheet at the AFCON, in the 2-0 win over Mali.
- Ghana have however found the net in each of their three matches at the AFCON
- The Ivorians have scored only two goals so far the AFCON.
- They have also conceded just one goal at the tournament. Only South Africa (0) have conceded fewer goals.
- Ivory Coast have not lost after scoring first at the AFCON. In fact they haven’t conceded after scoring first at the tournament.