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Ivory Coast, Ghana look to end long drought at African Cup

Both Ivory Coast and Ghana look to end decades-long drought in African Cup of Nations final

Ivory Coast, Ghana look to end long drought at African Cup

BATA, Equatorial Guinea (AP) -- A decades-long drought for an African Cup of Nations title is about to come to an end. And another is going to be extended at the same time.

The Ivory Coast will face Ghana on Sunday at Bata Stadium in the final, and both teams are looking to finally win another continental title after years of near-misses.

"It's a final with two very good teams, two very strong countries in Africa since a long time," Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard said Saturday. "We know it won't be easy."

The Ivorians came into the tournament as one of the big favorites because of its star-studded lineup, which includes Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony and Gervinho. But they are without Didier Drogba, who has retired from international soccer.

With Drogba, the team reached the African Cup final in 2006 and 2012, losing both times in a penalty shootout. Their only victory came in 1992, when they beat Ghana 11-10 on penalties.

"This is our past," Ivory Coast defender Wilfried Kanon said. "Now the present is tomorrow, and we don't want to let the chance pass."

Four-time champion Ghana has also been one of the best teams on the continent in recent years, but last won the African Cup title in 1982. The more recent set of players reached the World Cup quarterfinals in 2010 and then the African Cup final a few months later.

Now in their record ninth final, one more than seven-time champion Egypt, the Black Stars have their own squad of stars, including Asamoah Gyan, Christian Atsu and Andre Ayew.

Gyan, who was injured last week in the quarterfinal win over Guinea and missed the next game against Equatorial Guinea, may not yet be healthy enough for Sunday's match. But Ayew is ready.

"I'm trying to raise my game higher and higher every time," Ayew said. "What is important is tomorrow."

The final will be played in Bata, the biggest city in Equatorial Guinea. Ghana played its previous match against the host nation in Malabo, the capital city located on an island in the Atlantic Ocean.

That match descended into chaos after Ghana took the lead, and ended up being delayed for about 40 minutes late in the second half after the Ghanaian fans sought safety on the field after being pelted with missiles by home supporters.

Ghana is coached by Avram Grant, the Israeli who led Chelsea to the 2008 Champions League final. He took over at Ghana in December, giving him very little time to prepare for the tournament.

On the other side, Renard may have an advantage from a coaching perspective because he worked as an assistant with Ghana's national team about eight years ago. But the Frenchman wasn't so sure his past knowledge would be of any help on Sunday.

"It's not because you know some players you are sure to win," Renard said. "If you don't know Asamoah Gyan has a very good header, you are in trouble. If you don't know the quality of Andre Ayew before the game, you are also in trouble."

Updated : 2021-09-21 11:30 GMT+08:00