cup is ours: essien

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

ACCRA - Ghana's Black Stars will go all the way to the Africa Cup of Nations final and win the 26th edition to equal the record of five titles held by the Pharaohs of Egypt.

This was the bold prediction of England-based midfielder Michael Essien after Ghana beat the Super Eagles of Nigeria 2-1 in a tension-filled quarterfinal match in Accra on Sunday night.

Essien, who is earning a cool £90000 (about R1,3million) a week at Premiership outfit Chelsea, brought the Black Stars back into the game after scoring with an awesome header to equalise in the 44th minute.

Yukubu Ayegbeni had opened the scoring for Nigeria from the penalty spot.

"It's a great victory that the whole of Ghana has been waiting for. As you can see, Ghanaians are celebrating and they deserve it. They have been great to us since the start of the tournament and we could not disappoint them.

"It felt great to score the equaliser, especially at that time of the game. I also feel good to be part of the winning Black Stars team against Nigeria. We played well - in fact we should have scored one or two goals early in the game."

Essien, who took over the captaincy after John Mensah was sent off in the second half, said they were ready to deal with any country in the semifinal in Accra tomorrow.

"Our plan is to go all the way to the final and win it. It has been a long time since Ghana won the Africa Cup of Nations. This is a perfect time for us to do it for the country on home soil."

Mensah said: "I feel sad about what happened [the sending off], but I'm proud of the guys. They did very well."

Ghana last won the continental title in 1982 in Ghana where they had players such as Abedi Pele, Anthony Yeboah and Tony Baffoe. Their other three titles came in 1963, 1965 and 1978.

Just like Ghana, Cameroon have also won the Afcon four times. Many Ghanaians are hoping for a final against the Ivory Coast, who butchered Guinea 5-0 in Sekondi on Sunday.

Didier Drogba scored a brace, with the other goals netted by Samolon Kalou, Bakery Kone and Kader Keita. Ghana and the Ivory Coast are the only countries who are still unbeaten.

l Ramatsiyi Moholoa is in Ghana as a guest of Standard Bank.