After six rounds of intense competition, the final of the 2021 FA Cup is upon us, featuring two of the top-flight’s most formidable teams.
When Thomas Duah leads his Ashantigold side out against Ghana Premier League champions Accra Hearts of Oak at the Accra Sports Stadium on Sunday evening, though, the occasion might mean just a little more to them than to the Phobians.
Ashgold haven’t been on this stage since 2012 and now have a real chance of getting their hands on the prestigious trophy for only the second time, having previously won it in the 1992/93 season.
That taste of glory marked the beginning of a great spell for Ashgold: three straight league titles followed, along with an appearance in the maiden CAF Champions League final.
But they’ve not won much more in the years that have followed. Ashgold’s last major piece of silverware, a fourth league crown, came in 2015, and this is a fine opportunity to refresh their cabinet.
The current squad has, indeed, shown the wherewithal to do so. Their form in the FA Cup has been impressive, and Duah’s charges come into this game on the back of a 4-1 win over Berekum Chelsea last weekend. But for the fact that they’re up against the best team in the land, Ashgold may well be considered favourites.
A record-extending 11th FA Cup conquest, over two decades after they last won it and four years since losing the previous final, would be quite the icing on the cake.
Hearts romped to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Medeama in the semi-final, following a tense game in the preceding round that was only won in extra-time; the anticipation is that the final would have those sort of fine margins.
Cup finals can be tricky affairs, much as they can be a treat for neutrals, and this one isn’t expected to be dissimilar. A hugely debatable last-gasp penalty-kick — converted by Ashgold — made all the difference in the two sides’ most recent encounter, with their other league meeting of the 2020/21 campaign ending in a pulsating 2-2 draw.
Expect more of the same — more, in every sense of the word.