Botswana (1) – (2) Mali [Stade d’Angondjé]
Ghana (1) – (1) Guinea [Stade de Franceville]
Going into the last of the Group games today all four teams were still in with a chance to qualify for the Quarter-Finals. However, in the case of Botswana it would require a 9-0 victory over Mali and Ghana to beat Gambia. Now I know there have been some dramatic games, but surely this tournament won’t deliver that kind of result! Given the openness of the Group it meant that no team could afford to consider anything other than go for a win. Only Ghana knew that a win would definitely see them qualify for the knockout stages.
Guinea came into the game in Franceville with three points and knew all they could do was to go out and beat Ghana and hope that Mali were unable to defeat Botswana. Given this background, Guinea started positively against Ghana. However, on 28 minutes their dreams of progressing suffered a huge blow. Ghana had a corner which was played short to Emmanuel Agyemang Badu just outside the Guinea penalty area. He flicked the ball up with his left foot, before smashing it home with his right – one of the goals of the tournament. Guinea undeterred continued to be positive and were rewarded in time added-on at the end of the first-half. They kept possession and worked the ball from right to left. Abdoul Razzagui Camara beat his man and whipped in a ball which sailed over Kwarasey in the Ghana goal. Was it a misplaced cross or was it a shot on goal? Guinea didn’t care, they were back in the game and knew that they had 45 minutes to make their dream of qualification happen. Over in Libreville, Mali and Botswana played out a fairly even first-half which saw the teams go to the break at 0-0.
The deadlock in Libreville was quickly broken at the start of the second-half. With five minutes of the restart, Botswana were ahead. From midfield, the ball was worked wide to Moemedi, who crossed for Mogakolodi Ngele who burst through the rather static Mali defence to finish beautifully. However, Mali were back level just five minutes later. Traore twisted and turned out on the wing before whipping in a cross which was headed goal-ward. Botswana keeper Marumo could only parry and it feel to Garra Dembele who swept it in from close range. That goal meant that Mali would progress if the scores remained the same. Guinea perhaps feeling the pressure, had Mamadou Dioulde Bah sent-off with around twenty minutes to go and were now up against it as they searched for a second goal. Their fate was sealed with fifteen minutes to go, when Mali took the lead against Botswana. Seydou Keita received the ball from a throw-in and went for a one-two with Diabate on the edge of the box. The return ball was not the cleanest, but Keita did get the ball back and delivered a great finish to put Mali ahead 2-1. Guinea battled in vain, with substitutions aplenty to try and get back into the game, but it was to no avail. As the whistle blew at the two venues, Ghana and Mali celebrated as they completed the list of teams making it to the last eight. Incredibility the knockout games did not produce a single goal-less game. Would the next phase bring more cagey games?
(1) Ghana: 7 pts, (2) Mali: 6 pts, (3) Guinea: 4 pts, (4) Botswana: 0 pts.
There now follows a two day break before the knockout stages takes place on Saturday and Sunday. The Quarter- Final line-up:
04/02/12 Zambia v Sudan
04/02/12 Ghana v Tunisia
05/02/12 Gabon v Mali
05/02/12 Ivory Coast v Equatorial Guinea