Ghana champions urged to match Chelsea spirit
Berekum Chelsea of Ghana have been told to follow the example set by their English namesakes when they try to undo the damage of a poor CAF Champions League performance this weekend. After banging in 10 goals in four matches en route to the second round of the elite African club competition, the West Africans were held 0-0 by Cameroonian visitors Cotonsport Garoua two weeks ago.
It was a sharp contrast from a team that had fired five goals past three-time continental champions Raja Casablanca of Morocco at the same ground in the previous round with leading scorer Emmanuel Clottey claiming a hat-trick.
While Cotonsport talk confidently of clinching a place in the mini-league phase with a guaranteed 400,000 dollars prize money, Berekum coach Hans van der Pluijm has told his players to learn from the Barcelona-Chelsea epic last month.
Down to 10 men and trailing by two goals in a UEFA Champions League semi-final at the Camp Nou, the London club clawed back to draw 2-2 and clinch a place in the May 19 final against Bayern Munich. "This tie is far from over. Nothing is impossible in football, look what Chelsea achieved in Barcelona against all odds," Netherlands-born said Van der Pluijm. "Obviously, the best chance of victory usually comes at home, but we have to concentrate on the second leg in Cameroon and make sure we progress to bring pride to Ghana. The result hinges on the commitment and determination of my players and they normally deliver when pushed. Football is unpredictable and nothing is impossbile," added the 63-year-old coach.
France-born Cotonsport coach Robert Boivin responded: "We achieved a first-leg draw thanks to tactical discipline and goalkeeper Fiedjou Loic made several great saves. I am confident we will beat Chelsea in the second leg."
After surviving a first round scare, Sunshine Stars of Nigeria are poised to be among the eight survivors from the qualifiers after holding Djoliba 1-1 in Mali with Izu Azuka putting the visitors ahead and Ibrahima Sidibe equalising. "Our target is to win the Champions League," said Stars captaine Godfrey Oboabona after his team squeezed into the last 16 with an away-goal triumph against Recreativo do Libolo having lost 4-1 in Angola.
Title holders Esperance of Tunisia and former champions Al Ahly and Zamalek of Egypt, TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Etoile Sahel of Tunisia all look capable of progressing. Esperance hold a 6-0 advantage ahead of the long journney south to face Dynamos in Zimbabwe and no club in the 48-year history of the competition has closed such a yawning gap. African champions a record six times, Ahly must overcome a 1-0 loss away to Stade Malien. Zamalek achieved the outstanding result of the first leg by winning 2-0 away to 2011 CAF Confederation Cup title holders Moghreb Fes of Morocco with the most capped footballer in the world Ahmed Hassan of Egypt among the scorers.
Mazembe, whose challenge for a record third consecutive title came to an abrupt halt last year when they were kicked out for fielding an ineligible player, take a 2-0 advantage against Al Merreikh to Sudan. Etoile are even better off with a 4-1 lead over second-leg hosts AFAD Djekanou of Ivory Coast despite missing two penalties and ASO Chlef of Algeria must fancy their chances having held Al Hilal 1-1 in Sudan.
HOSTS COUNTRIES OF NEXT CAF COMPETITIONSOrange CAN 2012
REGULATIONS / PUBLICATIONSCAF Statutes