ACCRA – GHANA Â fans, players and officials Â are cautiously optimistic ahead of the Afcon semi-final against hosts Equatorial Guinea, Â this Â so as not not to stumble in the final four yet again as the quest for a first title since 1982.
The atmosphere is still not euphoric as vendors are hardly selling souvenirs and memorabilia in the national colours on the streets.
Vehicles, lamp posts and buildings are still not adorned with national flags as in the past. And there are only a few supporters in Equatorial Guinea as the government has not sponsored fans to cheer the team up.
“The souvenirs are not on the streets because people are not interested this time,” Kwadwo Mfum, a street vendor in Accra, tells dpa.
“Will this change? Maybe when we reach the finals,” he adds.
But as the players try to win back the confidence of the nation, which has sunk low because of a disappointing performance and indiscipline at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, some fans believe the Black Stars have defied the odds and performed beyond expectation.
They emerged as winners of Group C, dubbed the “group of death”, that also had Algeria, Senegal and South Africa, and then swept aside Guinea 3-0 in the quarter-finals.
“They have done well so far, to my surprise. They can reach the finals and even win the trophy,” says Martin Boahene, 29, a driver.
Players and officials are not raising expectations as the semi-finals were also reached in the past five tournaments, but only on one occasion – 2010 in Angola – did they reach the final, losing 1-0 to Egypt.
Their fourth and so far last title dates back to 1982.
The focus lies on the Equatorial Guinea match and make sure they win convincingly. And in this, nothing is being left to chance and there will be no complacency ahead Thursday’s game against the hosts who advanced thanks to a controversial penalty 2-1 over Tunisia.
While as fans and pundits continue to predict a final match between Ghana and Ivory Coast, who play DR Congo in the first semi on Wednesday, George Afriyie, chairman of the Black Stars Management Committee, warned that nothing was decided yet.
“We have been there before and we know how it feels, in the last five Afcon tournaments, we have always dreamt of the final when we still had a semi-final match to play,” the state-owned Daily Graphic quoted him as saying.
“This time around, we don’t want to dream, we want to be realistic,”
The newspaper also quotes the Ghana football supremo, Kwesi Nyantakyi, as striking a similar note.
“By the pairings of the semi-finals and on paper, it is easy for people to talk about Ghana playing Ivory Coast in the final,” he said.
“However, from our own painful experiences at the past five Afcon, and what has happened at this competition, particularly, at the quarter-finals, we say, we are not there yet. We have just qualified for the semi-finals, and our preparation is geared toward that match.”
Midfielder Andre Dede Ayew, who has had a good tournament so far, said: “We are not here to prove left or right. We are here to go far for our country. I think whether we like it or not Ghanaians love us, and we love them too.
“We hope they continue to pray for us and that they will be behind us for the semi-finals because we need their support.” -Â Sapa-dpa