There’s no gainsaying the fact that Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak command the largest following in Ghana football, which usually translates into mammoth attendance anytime the two teams play.
Whether you are an avid fan or just someone who appreciates the game, the super clash is one game, many do not want to miss and such has been the feeling among even football enthusiasts as they look up to Sunday’s Special Cup semifinal clash between Asante Kotoko and arch rivals Hearts of Oak.
These are the two most accomplished teams in the country and their matches historically reward the winning club with bragging rights as the best team in the country for that season. At the time that, football is being normalized in Ghana, one year after the #12 corruption expose, it will be interesting to see how Kotoko will subdue Hearts of Oak at their backward in the capital.
The euphoria ahead of the game has been intense but not without controversy which has although been resolved, lend ample credence to the fact that, Hearts-Kotoko matches always come up with controversial events. Sunday’s game comes after the Porcupines rescinded their decision to boycott the match over dispute on how the gate proceeds will be shared.
Both teams have been in fine form heading into this game. Kotoko placed second in Zone A while Hearts topped Zone B to set up this epic, mouth-watering battle. While Kotoko fans contend that, Hearts had a relatively easier group, Hearts supporters have held that, Kotoko were lucky to have qualified to the stage. Fabulous fans reject those claims insisting that, their strength ensured their survival in a zone that had Ashantigold and Aduana Stars – two mighty teams.
It looks tight on the record sheet in the last nine games. The Porcupines have won three, while the Phobians have also had three victories with the remaining three games ending in a draw. Kotoko’s last visit to Accra ended in defeat but the Porcupines are motivated by their double 2-0 wins over Hearts last year in friendly matches at the Baba Yara Stadium.
Coach C.K Akonnor, who once coached Hearts of Oak, is aware that clashes between the two sides always defy records. Akonnor has pitched camp in Asante Mampong with his players. He has sharpened all the rough edges in his team to slay Hearts of Oak and even though it’s known that Hearts-Kotoko matches follow no form guide, Kotoko are favourites to win the game because they have been the most active side in the last eight months and also with much experienced players.
TV Channel and How To Watch:
The game will be shown live on TV on GTV, GTV Sports+ and Kotoko Express App. You can also catch live updates on Ghanacrusader.com.
Game: Hearts of Oak vs Asante Kotoko
Date: Sunday, June 16.
Time: 15hrs GMT.
SQUADS & TEAM NEWS
Hearts of Oak’s good performances so far has been more about solid team play than individual effort.
That said, the influence of the likes of Christopher Bonney, Benjamin Afutu and Mohammed Alhassan, who are all available for Sunday’s clash, cannot go unmentioned.
In attack, youngster Umar Mannaf and Joseph Esso will be the main men Kotoko will have to keep eyes on.
Hearts of Oak probable XI: Ayi, Fatawu (C), Agyare, M. Alhassan, Bonney, Dankyi, Afutu, Obeng Junior, Kordzi, Esso, Mannaf.Kotoko, on the other hand, have been boosted by the return of talisman Abdul Fatawu, who was on international duties with the Black Stars in Dubai before he was dropped from the final squad for the African Cup of Nations.
The free-kick expect is likely to be handed a starting berth alongside Songne Yacouba, who has fighting to pass a late fitness test for this crunch game on Sunday.
Coach CK Akonnor will also have to find some temporal solution for his midfield problems, having struggled to find a solid central pair since the injury of Richard Senanu during their Caf Confederation Cup campaign.
Kotoko probable XI: Tagoe, Frimpong (c), Sefah, Wahab, Ganiyu, Bonsu, Gyamfi, Habib, J. Opoku, Yacouba, Fatawu.
Hearts of Oak will be seeking to win their first major trophy in a decade since winning the Glo Ghana Premier League in 2009 as well as making a return to the Champions League if they are able to win the competition.
Asante Kotoko will also be hoping to return to Africa Club competition after making the Money Zone last season but they must first overcome an impressive and rejuvenated Coach Kim Grant’s side.
Both teams have been in fine form heading into this game as Hearts of Oak topped Zone B of the Competition while Asante Kotoko placed second in Zone A to set up this mouth-watering clash.
Heading to the game Hearts have had enough rest as they were not in action this weekend after been eliminated from the Tier II Special Competition while Asante Kotoko took on Berekum Arsenals in the quarter-finals in a game they won 2-1 to progress to the semi-finals.
The winner of the competition will get the ticket to represent Ghana in the 2019-2020 CAF Champions League season.