Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui’s second-half strike and a stoppage-time second from Christian Bassogog were enough for Cameroon to reach their first Africa Cup of Nations final since 2008. The team face Egypt in a repeat of the 1986 final when Egypt hosted.
At the same time here in Franceville, Ghana were made to rue another semifinal failure.
Avram Grant’s Black Stars turned on the class to oust the Democratic Republic of Congo in their quarterfinal in Oyem, but were found wanting by an Indomitable Lions outfit that have confounded pre-tournament predictions to reach Sunday’s final against Egypt in some style.
Ngadeu-Ngadjui, who contributed a vital goal in the 2-1 victory over Guinea-Bissau, again made a telling impact in a big fixture as he beat Razak Brimah from close range in the 72nd minute after John Boye poorly headed the ball away from the goalkeeper during a Cameroonian set piece.
Ghana, belatedly perhaps, pushed men forward in search of an equaliser during the latter stages of the contest, but when Christian Atsu’s delivery let him down, Cameroon tore forward in the counter attack, with Vincent Aboubakar playing in Christian Bassogog who finished with aplomb past Brimah in the third minute of stoppage time.
In contrast to their conservative showing against Senegal, where Cameroon managed the contest well and sought to limit the Teranga Lions’ offensives, Hugo Broos’ side began brightly against Ghana.
Indeed, perhaps the manager sensed weaknesses in this Black Stars backline, and the Central Africans immediately sought to assert themselves, with the lively Bassogog looking to test leftback Frank Acheampong early on.
In a foreshadowing of the opener, a defender again took the ball away from Brimah only seven minutes in, when Harrison Afful opted to clear from Adolphe Teikeu’s header; although the keeper was behind him the ball may well have crossed the line were it not for the intervention
Brimah heaped the pressure onto himself with an ill-advised rant against his critics earlier in the week, and while he made a series of saves throughout the contest, his performance occasionally betrayed his nerves while he occasionally seemed to lack the faith of his defenders.
Cameroon continued to attempt to assert themselves, and were clearly not content to sit back and soak up the pressure. They demonstrated that they have the offensive talent as well, with Wakaso Mubarak forced to wipe out Bassogog with a particularly dubious talent midway through the first half.
Ghana’s own threat steadily emerged, with Wakaso and Jordan Ayew firing wide from decent positions, while Thomas Partey had an effort deflected wide during the end of the first half, as Ghana’s pressure intensified.
The Black Stars again started the second half the brighter of the two sides, with Wakaso – regularly testing the Cameroonian defence with his deliveries – forcing a fine save from Joseph Ondoa with a free kick on the hour mark.
After taking the lead with less than 20 minutes on the clock, Cameroon sought to kill off the contest by introducing Aboubakar, while Grant turned to Asamoah Gyan, not fit enough for the starting XI after being injured in Ghana’s final group game – the pseudo-dead rubber against Egypt.
While it was Aboubakar who ultimately made the decisive contribution with Cameroon’s late breakaway, Gyan offered a late moment of brilliance when he burst through, only to be pulled back for a handball.
It was a glimpse of what might have been for the Black Stars had the talismanic forward been fit from the off, but as it stands, the West Africans’ wait for a first Afcon title since 1982 continues, while it is Cameroon who advance to meet Egypt in Sunday’s final in Libreville.