LUANDA (AFP) - Ghana face neighbours Nigeria in a charged west African derby here Thursday with the prize a ticket to the Africa Cup of Nations final.
The semi-finalists who face off at Luanda's 11 November stadium made it through in wildly contrasting fashions.
While four-time winners Ghana impressed in their 1-0 quarter-final win over hosts Angola, Nigeria laboured to a goalless extra-time draw with Zambia, only prevailing on penalties, with Israeli-based goalkeeper Victor Enyeama converting the decisive spot kick for a 5-4 win.
Despite their far from impressive performance Ghana coach Milovan Rajevic is too wily a coach to take Nigeria's form in Benguela at face value.
"If you just look at Nigeria's quarter-final performance it can create a false impression," warned the Serb, speaking as ever with the help of his trusty translator.
"Yesterday (Tuesday) they showed they were an experienced team who knew what they wanted.
"You can't draw any conclusions from that game, you have to look at the bigger picture.
"Take for example Ivory Coast. They didn't play very well against Burkina Faso, then showed they could play a lot better in their next matches."
Rajevic has worked wonders to get Ghana this far given the injury crisis he has had to contend with, Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien among a host of key players out injured.
Yet he said he wasn't surprised at Ghana's progress to the semi-finals.
"When you consider we have eight younger players from Ghana's Under-20 World Cup winning team combined with some experienced players it's an excellent mix.
"My team has proved its quality, they know how to compete, they are tough, and there is an excellent atmosphere and spirit in the squad."
Rajevic is due to welcome back Norwegian-based midfielder Anthony Annan, who has missed all of Ghana's matches in Angola up to now.
"Anthony is recovering well and we can use him for the semi-final," Rajevac confirmed.
However, he will be without Agyemang Opuku, who is suspended.
Rajevic, meanwhile, may be a 'blow in' from Serbia but he doesn't need reminding of the importance Ghanaians attach to beating Nigeria.
"There is a definite rivalry between the two countries. On top of that this is a semi-final in the Africa Cup of Nations, with a place in the final up for grabs."
Recent history is on Ghana's side, after they knocked out Nigeria in the quarter-finals at the 2008 competition on home soil.
Asamoah Gyan scored the decisive goal in Ghana's quarter-final win over the hosts in Luanda on Sunday and the Rennes striker is relishing facing Nigeria again.
Gyan said: "Every Ghanaian knows how important it is to play Nigeria. We are ready for them and prepared and we will stick to the game plan that the coach has mapped out for us.
"We beat Nigeria two years ago. We have a lot of young guys in the team but we are concentrated and we will do everything possible to win."
Ghana are four time winners of the competition but their last title dates back to 1982.
Nigeria, meanwhile, champions in 1980 and 1994, have yet to catch fire in Angola, and will have to put in a more convincing display than they did against Zambia to see off Ghana.
Nigeria's under-fire coach Shaibu Amodu said after edging Zambia: "I was worried for the reputation of Nigeria, not for my job. It wouldn't have been good to once again be knocked out in the quarter-finals.
"We've said from day one that we have a team that can win this tournament. I know that I have the players to win it.
"We didn't play very well against Zambia but we showed how to play as a team.
"We're not at our best at the moment but we are improving all the time, and in five months (at the World Cup) we'll be a lot better."
|Coach: M. Rajevac|
for A. Opoku 30'
for H. Sarpei 54'
for A. Gyan 84'
|Yeboah set to join Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Rooney a ´chance´ to face West Ham|
|FIFA Club World Cup Preview: Bayern Munich v Raja Casablanca|
|Benzarti praises ´extremely talented´ Raja Casablanca|
|Ranieri unsure over Falcao return|
|Coupe de La Ligue Wrap: Cavani leads PSG to dramatic win|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Real Madrid through as Sevilla crash out|
|Tottenham job appeals to Sherwood|
|Sherwood gutted after defeat|
|Hughes: United worthy winners|
|Moyes pleased to see United weather storm|
|Allardyce hails West Ham fight|
|Coppa Italia: Juventus 3 Avellino 0|
|Manchester clubs kept apart in League Cup semi draw|
|League Cup: Tottenham 1 West Ham 2|
|League Cup: Stoke City 0 Manchester United 2|
|FIFA Club World Cup: Raja Casablanca 3 Atletico Mineiro 1|
|Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan abandoned due to heavy rain|
|United face anxious Rooney wait over injury|
|Messi making good progress|
|Ramos ban overturned|
|Osvaldo charged by FA|
|In-demand Ince offered new Blackpool deal|
|Molde confirm Solskjaer approaches|
|Kramer keen to continue home record|
|Rodgers: Henderson has potential to get even better|
|Ruiz on Anderlecht´s radar|
|Swansea, Hull fined by FA over player behaviour|
|Leeds keen on re-signing Gradel|
|Leverkusen announce Ryu deal|
|Ribery named Bundesliga Player of the Year|
|Moyes: No Zaha interest|
|Barcelona, Real Madrid in European Commission investigation|
|Basel: No Tottenham approach for Yakin|
|Chelsea set for Guarin bid, agent claims|
|Lewandowski has Dortmund goal concerns|
|Pogba, Pirlo will not sign before Christmas, says Marotta|
|Guardiola convinced to join Bayern after ´meat´ and greet|
|Martinez: Everton seen as a ´perfect´ loan destination|
|Anderlecht ´perfect´ for Defour, says Van Holsbeeck|
|Watford appoint Sannino|
|Sakho feels ´lucky´ to play with Suarez|
|Lippi: Too many teams competing in Club World Cup|
|Moyes ´told Welbeck to learn from Rooney´|
|I would kill myself over match-fixing, says Gattuso|
|Hughes dismisses calls for Januzaj protection|
|Aguero ´could miss up to two months´|
|Guardiola lauds Ballon d´Or nominee Ribery|
|Liverpool open Suarez contract talks|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Barcelona, Levante cruise through|
|A-League Preview: Derby date beckons for winless Heart|
|Pearson upbeat despite Leicester defeat|
|Poyet urges Sunderland to build on Chelsea win|
|Mourinho rues missed chances|
|Pellegrini proud of professional Manchester City|
|Bayern on another level, says Beckenbauer|
|League Cup: Sunderland 2 Chelsea 1 (aet)|
|League Cup: Leicester City 1 Manchester City 3|
|FIFA Club World Cup: Guangzhou Evergrande 0 Bayern Munich 3|
|Zenit and Olympiacos punished with partial stadium closures|
|Sherwood wants positive reaction|
|Ancelotti expected La Liga title fight|
|Moffat charged over betting allegations|
|Wilson appointed at Barnsley|
|Wilshere charged by FA|
|Gattuso determined to clear his name|
|Moyes slams sacking culture|
|Mackay refuses to resign despite owner criticism|
|Redknapp reluctant to take Taarabt back|
|Amat pleased with development|
|Hughes optimistic of League Cup progression|
|Perez: No bids for Di Maria|
|FIFPro demand transfer system overhaul|
|Edwards sacked by Perth Glory|
|Allardyce not fearing the sack|
|Howson commits to Norwich|
|Tevez resigned to Argentina snub|
|SFA uphold Butcher´s one-match ban|
|Zapata rules out United switch|
|European Ombudsman calls for action on Spanish tax complaint|
|Albrighton eyes new Villa deal|
|Bale to miss Copa del Rey clash with ´small injury´|
|Pardew will bide his time in January|
|Kreuzer confident of Hamburg improvement|
|Van der Sar: Moyes can turn United around|
|Maradona backs Ronaldo for Ballon d´Or|
|Tottenham warned off Klinsmann|
|Costa Rica Primera Division: Alajuelense 0 Herediano 0|
|Lyon wary of Chornomorets Odesa|
|Guardiola talks up Lippi, Evergrande|
|Chile Primera Division Wrap: Chile, Deportes Iquique reach final|
|Garcia laments defensive mistakes|
|La Liga: Real Valladolid 3 Celta Vigo 0|