Ethiopia aim high ahead of Burkina Faso match
NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP) -After its first match in the African Cup of Nations in 31 years, Ethiopia has revised its ambitions from merely gathering experience to reaching the final.
The change in mindset happened after a 10-man Ethiopia came from behind to draw with defending champion Zambia 1-1 on Monday.
Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw previously said his team was in South Africa mainly to learn, but his optimism has grown after a performance that surpassed expectations.
A victory over Burkina Faso on Friday at Mbombela Stadium would see Ethiopia close in on the quarterfinals.
"Even though we are new, we are here to challenge every team. As long as we are here as a strong team, why can't we go to the cup final?'' Sewnet said. "We will try to reach that.''
Aiding Ethiopia's efforts is a familiarity among its players, with 17 of the 23 squad members coming from either Saint George or Dedebit in the Ethiopian Premier League.
"That is the main strength because if you have to collect players from different areas with different strategies, it creates a bit of a problem,'' Sewnet said. "You cannot form that team within a short period of time.
"This group of players are playing together every day, and whenever you want to train you can call them. Because of this we didn't have any problem getting the team into good shape. So that has given us a very good strength.''
Ethiopia drew by far the largest support base for Monday's Group C double-header, with thousands of Johannesburg-based immigrants bussing in for the occasion. Sewnet predicted that the number of fans would double for the team's next game.
Their behavior came under the spotlight, however, after fans hurled vuvuzelas onto the field in response to Ethiopia goalkeeper Jemal Tassew's red card.
The Confederation of African Football fined Ethiopia's football federation $10,000, with half suspended on condition that Ethiopia does not commit a similar offense at the tournament.
Jemal will miss Friday's game after being suspended for two matches, while Sewnet promised to make other changes in a bid to counter Burkina Faso's physicality.
"We will try to play as many passes as possible because the Burkinabes are huge and physically very strong,'' Sewnet said. "We will have a better team for the second game and use players with speed and good passing abilities.''
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