Avram Grant could be taking charge of Ghana for the last time when they play Burkina Faso in the Africa Cup of Nations third-place play-off in Port-Gentil on Saturday.
The former Chelsea boss has strongly hinted this tournament would be his last in charge of the Black Stars with his contract nearing expiry and he may not even get the chance to decide for himself due to criticism he is receiving in Ghana.
The likely end of Grant’s tenure comes after he failed to end their 35-year wait for AFCON glory following the 2-0 semi-final defeat to Cameroon, two years on from their heartbreaking penalty shootout loss to Ivory Coast in the final.
“I am more than unhappy,” said Grant. “We wanted so much to be in the final.
“We did everything to be there and in the second half we completely dominated Cameroon. Congratulations to them, but the better side lost.
“It is not exactly the dream of our lives to play this game [against Burkina Faso], but we will do everything to win it.”
Ghana, who have lost their last two third-place play-off ties in 2012 and 2013, can at least take solace from making the last four for the sixth consecutive AFCON.
Burkina Faso, meanwhile, are also developing a solid track record in the competition, with their trip to the semi-finals coming four years after they were runners-up in South Africa.
Their hopes were dramatically ended on penalties against Egypt after 120 minutes of action had ended in a 1-1 draw.
“We should have won because we showed our skills, stamina and determination – we had the opportunities,” said Burkina Faso head coach Paulo Duarte, whose side have had an extra day’s rest ahead of the Ghana clash.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Burkina Faso – Aristide Bance
Two of the last three goals scored by Burkina Faso have been netted by Bance.
The 32-year-old has scored in each of the last three AFCON tournaments and his experience complements the team’s younger stars like Bertrand Traore and Banou Diawara.
Ghana – Andre Ayew
Ayew, like Bance, still has a chance to win the tournament golden boot, with leader Junior Kabananga (three) already knocked out.
Ghana’s vice-captain has scored twice and forms an impressive set of attacking options that includes brother Jordan, Asamoah Gyan and Christian Atsu.
KEY OPTA STATS:
– Burkina Faso are appearing in a third-place play-off for the second time in the African Cup of Nations; losing on penalties to DR Congo on penalties in 1998.
– These sides are facing each other for the fifth time in the African Cup of Nations; Ghana won the initial three meetings before Burkina Faso picked up a 2013 semi-final victory on penalties.
– Burkina Faso have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their four previous AFCON encounters with Ghana, scoring only twice themselves in that time.
– Seven of the last eight third-place play-off matches have been won without the need for extra time or penalties (DR Congo’s victory on penalties in 2015 being the exception).
– Three of the last seven goals registered in the AFCON by Ghana have come from the penalty spot.
– At least one of the Ayew brothers has been directly involved in 10 of Ghana’s last 14 goals at the AFCON (five goals and two assists for Andre, two goals and an assist for Jordan – never assisting each other in that time).