Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Tuesday 24 January 2012
Ghana (1) – (0) Botswana
Given Ghana’s 2nd place in the CAF rankings, it is no surprise they are amongst the favourites in this years tournament. In the opening game of Group D they were up against a Botswana team nineteen places below them in ranking terms and making their first appearance in an Africa Cup of Nations Finals. In the opening forty five minutes Ghana comfortably controlled proceedings, although Botswana worked hard to restrict the Ghanaian opportunities on goal. The dominance of Ghana did lead to a goal before the break, one that certainly won’t be a contender for ‘goal of the tournament’! It came on 25 minutes from a corner, which was flicked on by Asamoah Gyan, the contact seemed to confuse the Botswana defence and allowed John Mensah to bundle the ball in via his knees. In the second-half, Botswana showed more of their attacking purpose and on 66 minutes from a through ball, goal scorer Mensah was dismissed as he brought down Jerome Ramatlhakwane. Despite Ghanaian protests, the reality was that the referee made the right decision. With a man advantage, Botswana continued to press but failed to create a real chance in the last twenty minutes. Relief then for Ghana at their win, but Botswana were by no means outclassed.
Mali (1) – (0) Guinea
In the second game of the day at Stade de Franceville, another tight encounter was expected, and so it proved to be. As with the game that proceeded it, it was settled by a single goal. In the first half Guinea certainly created the better chances, with three good efforts in the opening twenty five minutes. Soumaila Diakite made two excellent saves, the first coming in the opening minute and then again in the eighteenth minute, as he just fingered-tipped away a towering header from Ismael Bangoura. Guinea were then caught out at the back on 30 minutes. From a Mali raid down the right the ball was cut back and broke to the edge of the box. Bakaye Traore let fly and a deflection took the ball beyond the despairing dive of Naby Yattara. Guinea were almost level within minutes as Ismael Bangour broke into the Mali box but his shot was smothered by Diakite as he raced off his line. Guinea continued to dominate after the break, but couldn’t find an equaliser. Feindouno was presented with two good chances in the second half. The first was blazed wide and the second, in the closing minutes of the game was saved by Diakite, to cap off for him an outstanding display.
That game saw the end of the first round of group games and perhaps surprisingly ensured that there wasn’t a single draw in the opening eight games.
Group D resumes on Saturday 28 January, with Botswana v Guinea and Ghana v Mali.