African football powerhouses Cameroon and Ghana are set to meet in the second semifinal of the Nations Cup. Cameroon have belied their troubled preparation by making the last four but are now embroiled in a bonus row.
Both teams are four-time continental champions but despite their pedigree, success in the Africa Cup of Nations has eluded them in recent years.
Ghana, World Cup quarterfinalists in 2010, last won Africa’s top prize way back in 1982 while Cameroon’s last triumph was in 2002.
Cameroon’s build-up to this tournament was clouded by seven players declining the invitation to play in Gabon, including the high-profile duo Joel Matip of Liverpool and Schalke’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
Despite being shorn of arguably their best players, The Indomitable Lions have proved the doubters wrong by reaching the last four.
Even if Matip and Choupo-Moting had turned up, most Cameroon fans would agree that their current crop of players lacks the star quality that marked previous incarnations of the side, who made the World Cup quarterfinals in 1990 thanks to the evergreen Roger Milla and were dangerous opponents for any outfit in the 2000s as Samuel Eto'o reigned supreme.
The latest spanner in works has come in the form of tournament bonuses, long a gripe in African football.
"It's true that we - not just the players but all of us - are not happy with the bonuses that have been given to us because there is a lack of respect," Cameroon’s Belgian coach Hugo Broos, 64, told a pre-match news conference in Franceville on Wednesday.
This Cameroon team though seems to thrive on adversity, so don’t expect the bonus row to diminish their chances of reaching Sunday’s final.
Gyan in race to become fit
As both teams strive for renewed glory, Ghana are particularly desperate for success, as they enter their sixth consecutive Africa Cup of Nations semifinal.
The Black Stars are marginal favorites, and hope captain and top striker Asamoah Gyan can play a part on Thursday after missing the quarterfinal win over DR Congo with a groin problem.
Even without him, Ghana still boast electric forward pair and brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew.
Bizarrely Jordan moved clubs on transfer deadline day on Tuesday despite being in Gabon preparing for Thursday's semi. He joined Premier League side Swansea City from Aston Villa of England's Championship - Swansea being his brother’s former club before Andre moved on to West Ham United prior to the start of the current season.
Ghana assistant coach Maxwell Konadu believes his side are concentrating fully on the match in hand.
"Ghana are improving game after game and we expect the improvement will show (against Cameroon)," he said. "Cameroon have shown that they are one of the tough sides in the Nations Cup and we must be focused to face them."