Zambia/Ghana: End of Dream!

Photo: Confederation of African Football.
Ghana and Zambia in a battle (file photo).

Kumasi — ZAMBIA'S hopes for a historic World Cup appearance came to an abrupt end yesterday when the Chipolopolo lost the crucial Group D qualifier to Ghana after putting up a brave fight in the race for the Brazil 2014 finals at Baba Yara Stadium.

It was indeed a sweet and hard-fought revenge for the Black Stars, who were twice beaten by the Chipolopolo last year, and also collected their first win over Zambia in a competitive match since 1992.

Zambia, who were in charge of the group after FIFA awarded free three points off Sudan, were the architects of their downfall by drawing two crucial matches away to minnows Lesotho and in Ndola against Sudan.

While the Chipolopolo were dropping points to Lesotho and Sudan, the Black Stars seized the opportunity by bashing the two sides convincingly.

Yesterday's ejection from the FIFA 2014 World Cup campaign caps a disappointing year for the Chipolopolo, who in January surrendered the Africa Cup of Nations title in South Africa.

At the packed Baba Yara Stadium, two superb goals from Abdul Majeed Waris and Kwadwo Asamoah put Ghana on path for a third consecutive World Cup qualification.

Chipolopolo midfielder Nathan Sinkala's thumping goal on 72 minutes came a bit too late to upstage the Black Stars.

Zambia had a quick start to this crunch tie, winning a free-kick inside the first two minutes but Rainford Kalaba's resultant set-piece came off the Ghana human wall.

Ghana hit back with Andre Ayew leading the attack but still failed to get past goalkeeper, Kennedy Mweene.

The Chipolopolo stepped back into the game but could not find the right combinations to break the Black Stars with lone striker, Emmanuel Mayuka, who was a constant menace, tightly marked.

However, a momentary lack of concentration by Zambian defenders gifted Ghana an easy goal on 17 minutes when Waris headed in a John Boye cross inside the box.

The Zambian rearguard was caught off-guard seemingly thinking the ball had gone out of play but Boye managed to shrug off Stoppila Sunzu before floating the ball for Waris to score with ease as Hichani Himoonde was ball-watching.

Zambia's frontline clearly was not ticking and even the midfield combination of Nathan Sinkala and Kondwani Mtonga could not gel.

But the goal worked as a catalyst for the Chipolopolo as they slowly started to find their rhythm.

It was, however, the Black Stars, who almost grabbed the second but Mweene made a touch to to deny Mubarak Wakaso an opportunity on 27 minutes.

Zambia's first real chance came on 36 minutes through Sinkala, whose cracker was gathered up by goalkeeper, Fatau Dauda after an initial struggle.

Sinkala's shot came after a neat build-up by the Chipolopolo, easily weaving through the Black Stars rearguard.

Just before the break, veteran defender, Joseph Musonda got a knock on the head and was replaced by Emmanuel Mbola but Ghana still held on to a half time 1-0 lead.

On restart, coach Herve Renard juggled his cards introducing winger Fwayo Tembo for Himoonde and the introduction of the Romania-based player brought some life into the Zambian attack.

The Chipolopolo pinned the Black Stars in their own half and Tembo saw his well-executed volley on 56 minutes saved by Dauda.

But against the run of play, Ghana scored the second on 60 minutes when Asamoah's long-range strike beat Mweene at the near post, sending a packed stadium into deafening noise.

Ghana's second goal prompted some Zambians to storm out of the stadium as they now anticipated a loss.

Skipper Christopher Katongo, who had a quiet game, managed to beat three defenders at once with a beautiful touch but Dauda managed to rush to halt the danger.

Zambia finally managed to find the back of the net when Sinkala whipped home just inside the box a well-calculated Kalaba cross, giving Dauda no chance.

Renard then made his last dice throw, introducing striker James Chamanga for defender Davies Nkausu on 77 minutes to add firepower upfront.

Ghana skipper, Asamoah Gyan, who on most occasions was outmuscled off the ball by Sunzu, was substituted for Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu with 10 minutes before the close.

Even the introduction of Michael Essien earlier on still failed to yield any success for the Black Stars as the Chipolopolo took control of the midfield.

The Black Stars held firmly to secure qualification for the final play-offs which will start next month where five African teams will sail through to the Brazil finals.

Line-ups:

Ghana - Fatau Dauda, Daniel Opare, Harrison Afful, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Rabiu Mohammed (Michael Essien 56th), Andre Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah, Abdul Majeed Waris, Asamoah Gyan (Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu 80th), Mubarak Wakaso (Christian Atsu 56th).

Zambia - Kennedy Mweene, Joseph Musonda (Emmanuel Mbola 45th), Davies Nkausu (James Chamanga 77th), Hichani Himonde (Fwayo Tembo 46th), Stoppila Sunzu, Nathan Sinkala, Khondwani Mtonga, Chisamba Lungu, Rainford Kalaba, Chris Katongo, Emmanuel Mayuka

Referee - Haimoudi Djamel (Algeria)

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