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Drogba and Essien have key roles as big four play for final honour

Fittingly, this enthralling en·thrall  
tr.v. en·thralled, en·thrall·ing, en·thralls
1. To hold spellbound; captivate: The magic show enthralled the audience.

2. To enslave.
 competition continues today with semi-finals featuring four of the most successful countries in its history. Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast Ivory Coast: see Côte d'Ivoire.  and Ghana have won the tournament 14 times between them and each is confident of lifting the trophy again.

"We arrived as champions and we intend to go home as champions," said Mohamed Shawky Mohamed Shawky (Arabic: محمد شوقي) (born October 15, 1981) is an Egyptian footballer. He plays the Defensive midfielder position for English Premier League club Middlesbrough as well as Egypt's national football team. , the Middlesbrough midfielder who played every minute of Egypt's victorious 2006 campaign and has again been a key player this time round. With a neat and inventive five-man midfield, the Pharoahs are perhaps the most fluid team left in the tournament but to fulfil their ambition they must beat the most feared - Ivory Coast, who boast one of the most potent strikeforces in world football.

Though they have hit 13 goals in four games so far and conceded just one, the Ivorians have not been truly tested, having been fortunate to face opponents who were missing influential players through suspension. Further cause for hope is the fact that neither Didier Drogba Didier Yves Drogba Tébily (born March 11, 1978 in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast) is a footballer from the Ivory Coast who currently plays for Chelsea FC in the English Premier League. Drogba is the current African Footballer of the Year.  nor Kolo Kolo (meaning "wheel" in some Slavic languages) may refer to one of the following:
  • Kolo (dance), a Serbian/Croatian circle dance
  • Koło County, a county in Poland
  • Koło, a Polish town and seat of Koło County
  • KOLO-TV, in Reno, Nevada
 Touré have looked fully fit so far and, as Egyptians have been pointing out all week, the Pharoahs beat the Elephants twice in 2006, once in the group stages and then again in the final after a penalty shoot-out penalty shoot-out

Sport a method of deciding the winner of a drawn match, in which players from each team attempt to score with a penalty shot

penalty shoot-out n (FOOTBALL

"We know them very well and I have devised a suitable plan for beating them," said Egypt's manager, Hassan Shehata Hassan Shehata (Arabic: حسن شحاتة) (born June 19, 1949) is an Egyptian football coach and former player, currently the head coach of the Egyptian national team. , who is bidding to become the first manager to retain the trophy. "I don't think the match will go to penalties again - we will be playing to win in 90 minutes because I think their great physical power could be a big factor if it goes to extra time."

In the first semi-final the hosts, Ghana, will have to tame the Indomitable in·dom·i·ta·ble  
Incapable of being overcome, subdued, or vanquished; unconquerable.

[Late Latin indomit
 Lions of Cameroon if they are to fulfil the promise they made to their supporters. Ever since taking charge of the Black Stars, their manager, Claude LeRoy, has insisted that anything other than overall victory would be a failure and yesterday the players, in a live video link-up with the country's president, John Kufuor John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor (born in Kumasi December 8, 1938) is the current president of Ghana, since January 7 2001. He ran for election in 2000 and won, succeeding Jerry Rawlings, who defeated him when he previously ran for President in the election in 1996, and having the first , who is in Italy at a meeting of the world food programme, vowed to triumph. "Your Excellency, we will do the job," boomed Michael Essien Michael Essien (born December 3, 1982 in Accra) is a Ghanaian International footballer. He currently plays for Chelsea in the English Premier League. He is a central midfielder and plays as a deep-lying playmaker for the Black Stars, the Ghana national football team. . "We will make the nation proud."

To keep his promise, Essien may have to excel in an unfamiliar role. The expulsion of the captain, John Mensah, in the quarter-final against Nigeria means Ghana have a glaring hole in the middle of their defence. Essien performed admirably there for 30 minutes against the Super Eagles, but his limitations in the role have been exposed in the past, notably at Chelsea. With Cameroon's attack being led by the most prolific scorer in African Cup of Nations history, Samuel Eto'o, Le Roy said he was exploring other options.

The most obvious choice is to entrust the central defensive role to Shilla Illiasu, who, after Mensah, is the only other specialist centre-back in the squad. The 25-year-old, who once had trials with Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers before signing for FC Saturn in the Russian top flight, is short of match practice having been out injured for months.

"Mensah is one of the best five defenders in the world and his loss is a major blow," said Le Roy. "But Shilla has made a great recovery and has been training for a few days now. I'm confident he could do the job if called upon. But I've got a lot of thinking to do before I decide whether to thrust him into such a big game."
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Date:Feb 7, 2008
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