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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Previews: African Cup of Nations semi-finals

We’re down to the final four as Zambia play Ghana at 4pm and Mali meet the Ivory Coast later this evening.

Asamoah Gyan celebtrating his goal against Mali in the group stages.
Asamoah Gyan celebtrating his goal against Mali in the group stages.
Image: Themba Hadebe/AP/Press Association Images

Zambia v Ghana, KO 4pm (Irish time)

Herve Renard goes head-to-head with his former employers knowing his Zambia side are heavy underdogs at the Estadio de Bata this afternoon.

The Frenchman was assistant to Claude Le Roy when Ghana finished third in 2008 but has led the Copper Bullets to an unlikely semi-final appearance this time around.

With the exception of Clifford Mulenga, who was sent home for breaking a curfew, Renard has a full squad to choose from but make two changes as James Chamange comes in for Emmanuel Mayuka and Chisamaba Lungu gets the nod ahead of Francis Kasonda.

Before the tournament even started, a Ghana v Ivory Coast final had been touted but Zambia skipper Christopher Katonga believes that, 18 years after reaching their last one, now is their time.

“If you want to be at the top, you have to beat those there,” the 29-year-old said on the CAF website. “This is a good opportunity for the players to make our name. It is a challenge to move a step further. This is our time.”

Ghana have dealt with the pressure of being strongly-backed so far, although they did need a bit of luck for Andre Ayew’s goal in extra-time to get them past Tunisia at the quarter-final stage.

The Black Stars must do without influential midfielder Emmanuel-Agyemang Badu, who scored a wonder-strike against Guinea in the group stages but picked up a knee injury against Tunisia.

Derek Boateng takes his place, while Jordan Ayew is named instead of Sulley Muntari and full-back Lee Addy features for Masahudu Alhassan, who drops out of defence.

Both teams line up with similar systems by packing the midfield in a 4-2-3-1 and leading with a lone striker.

Starting line-ups

Zambia: Mweene, Kasonde, Musonda, Himoonde, Nkausu, Chansa, C Katongo, Chamanga, Sunzu, Kalaba, Sinkala.

Ghana: Kwarasey, Inkoom, Lee Addy, John Mensah, Boye, Annan, Boateng, A Ayew, Asamoah, J Ayew, Gyan.

Mali v Ivory Coast, KO 7pm (Irish time)

Over in Libreville later this evening, Mali will attempt mission improbable as they look to overcome tournament favourites Ivory Coast.

The Elephants restated their credentials with a comfortable 3-0 win over co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in the last round – the goals coming from African Player of the Year Yaya Toure and talisman Didier Drogba.

Mali have made if further than many had expected them to, but it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise considering they have made it this far on five of the seven times they featured in the finals.

Captain Seydou Keita took a knock to the ankle in the win over Gabon in a penalty shootout but the Barcelona midfielder should be fit to start.

Francois Zahoui has Salomon Kalou back as the Chelsea forward has recovered from a thigh injury and he could return to the starting XI, although Max Gradel produced a fine performance in his place as part of a front three on Saturday and would be unlucky to lose out.

Goalkeeper Boubacar Barry is a doubt, however.

Probable line-ups

Mali: Diakite, Coulibaly, Tamboura, Berthe, Kante, A Traore, Keita, Kone, M Traore, Maiga, Diabate.

Ivory Coast: Barry, Lolo, K Toure, Bamba, Tiene, Gosso, Y Toure, Tiote, Kalou, Drogba, Gervinho.

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Ben Blake

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