Sunday, May 19, 2024

TotalEnergies CHAN 2022 Semi-Final Line-Up Complete

After more than two weeks of scintillating football at the TotalEnergies African Nations Championship (CHAN) 2022 in Algeria, we are down to four teams battling for the golden crown.

A journey that has been filled with surprises, twists, and turns, has now presented the aspirants for the coveted trophy in the tournament organized for players that ply their trade in their domestic leagues on the continent.

Hosts Algeria booked their ticket to the semi-finals after a 1-0 victory over Côte d’Ivoire thanks to a 96th minute penalty by Aimen Mahious who was perfect from 12 yards in a match that saw two red cards for both teams.

This was Algeria’s fourth 1-0 result at the seventh CHAN edition.

The Desert Foxes are yet to concede a goal despite losing number one choice goalkeeper Alexis Guendouz in the 20th minute of the above game and was replaced by Farid Chaal who kept a clean sheet.

Madjid Bougherra’s side will now face the tournament’s surprise package Niger who have been excellent in Oran cruising to their first ever semi-final at the expense of big guns Cameroon and Ghana. The Menas too are yet to concede a goal.

“I said before that the winner of the Algeria and Côte d’Ivoire game will go to the final. We want to see that. We want to make our fans happy,” Bougherra admitted.

Niger and Algeria share borders. Niger sits to the southeast of Algeria and the brotherhood between the two nations has been seen at all Niger’s games in Oran where they have received massive support from the locals before, during and after games.

The Menas have been based at the Miloud Hadefi Stadium in Oran and recorded a goalless draw against Congo, won 1-0 against Cameroon and 2-0 against Ghana. Harouna Doula’s side has consistently grown into the tournament.

“We are exactly where we wanted to be. We can dream of a place in the final. We want people to know about Niger. Our time is now,” explained Doula in an interview.

Algeria will leave their base at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Baraki, Algiers for the first time since the tournament started and will be hoping to emerge victorious against Niger who have made the Miloud Hadefi Stadium their home ground.

Meanwhile, in the other semi-final, Senegal will battle debutants Madagascarfor a place in the final to be played on February 4 at the Nelson Mandela Stadium.

The CHAN returnees for the first time since 2011 have been impressive under Pape Thiaw who came into the tournament with just nine players from the squad that competed in the qualifiers.

“My satisfaction comes from the fact that Senegalese teams are all doing well. This team has character even though the boys are still young,” Thiaw noted with joy.

Just like at the World Cup in Qatar, five of Senegal’s goals in Algeria have been scored by five different players including Moussa Ndiaye, Ousmane Diouf, Pape Diallo and Lamine Camara. The other was an own goal from Baggio Siadi.

The Generation Foot midfielder Camara who was named as the Best Young Player of the group stages stumped his name in the fabric of the tournament and affirmed his selection with his goal against Mauritania.

His goal ensured that the Teranga Lions became the first side to score against their in-form neighbours Mauritania at the tournament and are now on course to win the treble. Senegal are the reigning champions of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as well as the Beach Soccer AFCON.

To achieve that, they must stop the in-form Madagascar whose awe-inspiring run of victories at the tournament has inspired the debutants to a historic semi-final place.

The Barea have overcome all odds to earn the respect accorded to a title favourite and have in more ways than one become the ultimate title favourites.

They are fast in attack and have shown that with determination and hard work, impossible is nothing. Romuald Rakotondrabe has fine-tuned his side to become fearless no matter the opponent that they are up against.

“In the beginning my players were afraid. However, we adjusted and quickly adapted. That is why I am so satisfied. But in all honesty, I did not envisage that we will be in the semis. We came here as underdogs, but my players have worked hard and changed our status. I cannot believe it. Congratulations to my players,” Rakotondrabe confessed.

Madagascar have scored the most goals in the tournament – eight in three games conceding just twice to demonstrate how balanced they are as a team.

In goalkeeper Razakanirina Rakotohasimbola commonly known as Nina, Madagascar has a stalwart between the posts. His reflex saves to deny Mozambique any chance at victory showcased his great talent that is expected to be a decisive factor in that game.

No game has gone to extra time and penalties so far at the tournament and it remains to be seen whether the semi-finals will present such a test to the quartet.

Algeria will face Niger in the first semi-final at the Miloud Hadefi Stadium in Oran on Tuesday, 31 January at 1600GMT before Senegal face Madagascar at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Baraki, Algiers on the same day at 1900GMT.

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