Today in history: Ghana defied all odds to win it 4th AFCON title in Libya

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Exactly 38 years ago today (19th March 1982), the Black Stars defied all odds to win it 4th African Cup of Nations (AFCON) after defeating host nation Libya 7-6 on penalties infront of it boisterous and intimidating home fans. The game after 90 minutes and extra time ended 1-1. The triumph was Ghana’s last continental triumph.

The tournament that year was the 13th edition of the AFCON, Ghana after winning the 11th edition in Accra failed to make it out of the Group stage of the 12th edition in 1980, which was hosted in Nigeria and won by Nigeria. Eight teams participated in Libya and were divided into 2 groups of 4. Tripoli and Benghazi hosted all games.

Ghana were drawn in the same group with host nation Libya, 1965 runners up Tunisia and Cameroon. Algeria, Zambia, holders Nigeria and 1962 champions Ethiopia were also drawn in group B.

The story of Ghana’s journey to Libya was characterized by a strong sense of serendipity. Few months to the tournament, then president of the country Dr. Hilla Limann had said that Ghana would not partake in the tournament due to diplomatic reasons, but there was a turn of events as Dr. Hilla Limann was dethrone by Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings 2 months to the tournament.

Ghana went ahead to play in the tournament without any adequate preparation and little financial backing, but the Black Stars who were not expected to even make it out of the group defied all odds and won the tournament.

Ghana managed to finish second in Group A with 4 points and plus 1 goal. The Black Stars in the first game drew 2-2 against host nation Libya, drew 0-0 against Cameroon in the 2nd game and defeated Tunisia 1-0 in the final group game. Libya topped the group with 4 points and plus 2 goals difference. Cameroon placed 3rd and Tunisia finished bottom of the group with a point.

Algeria topped Group A with 5 points, Libya finished 2nd with 4 points, Nigeria finished 3rd with 2 points, whiles Ethiopia trailed the group with a point.

It is a thing to note that nations were awarded 2 points for winning a game and a point for drawing.

Ghana in the semifinal defeated Algeria by 3-2, the game after 90 minutes ended 2-2. The good old George Alhassan scored in the first half of extra time to win the encounter for Ghana by 3-2. Libya defeated Zambia 2-1 in the other semifinal fixture.

Ghana in the final defeated host nation Libya by 7-6 on penalties. The game after 90 minutes ended 1-1. Ghana took the lead in the 35th minute through George Alhassan before Beshari restored parity in the 70th minute. The game after 90 minutes and 30 minutes of extra time went to penalties, the first ever tie breaking exercise in a final to be decided on penalties.

Sampson Lamptey, George Alhassan, Isaac Paha, Kofi Abbrey and Albert Asaase converted the first set of penalties, the Libyans also converted all their first 5 spot kicks. In the 2nd round of the shootout, goalkeeper Owusu Mensah saw his kick saved by Ramzy Al-Kouafi. Owusu Mensah from then raised from a villain to a hero, he saved the 6th and 7th spot kick from the Libyans. Ironically, Owusu Mensah went to the tournament as Ghana’s 3rd choice goalkeeper.

The triumph was named “George’s African Cup” by most Ghanaian reporters. It was Ghana’s fourth and last continental title. George Alhassan was named player of the tournament whiles Libya’s Fawzi Al-Issawi was named most valuable player of the competition. The tournament birthed Abedi Pele, a 17 years old footballer as at then who went on to win the African best player award 3 times.

Ghana’s squad for the tournament

Goalkeepers: Joseph Carr (Asante Kotoko), John Baker (Eleven Wise), Michael Owusu Mensah (Okwahu United)

Defenders: Haruna Yusif (Asante Kotoko), Charles Kwame Sampson (Sekondi Hasaacas), Sampson “Gaddafi” Lamptey (Hearts of Oak), Seth Ampadu (Asante Kotoko), Kwasi Appiah (Asante Kotoko), Hesse Odamtten (Hearts of Oak), Isaac Paha (Sekondi Hasaacas)

Midfielders: John “Zion Train” Essien (Sekondi Hasaacas), Windsor Kofi Abbrey (Sekondi Hasaacas), Acquaye Mclean (Great Olympics), Albert Asaase (Asante Kotoko), Abedi Pele (Real Tamale United), John Bannerman (Asante Kotoko), Kofi Badu (Asante Kotoko)

Forwards: Emmanuel Quarshie (Zamalek), Opoku Afriyie (Asante Kotoko), Opoku Nti (Asante Kotoko), George Alhassan (FC 105), Ben Kayede (Auroras)

Coach: Charles Gyamfi

Assistants: Emmanuel Kwasi ‘E.K’ Afranie and Fred Osam-Duodu

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