Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Wednesday 01 February 2012

Group D

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?

Final Positions:

(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

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Saturday 28 January 2012

Group D:

Botswana (1) – (6) Guinea

Botswana (nicknamed, Ezimbizi – The Zebras) had battled hard in their opening fixture against Ghana (nicknamed The Black Stars) before losing 1-0. Guinea (nicknamed, Syli national – National Elephants) also lost their first group game by a similar margin. To date in the tournament no side had been on the end of a heavy defeat, but that changed today. Guinea ran out 6-1 winners, a game in which the main activity took place in the opening half. Sadio Diallo opened the scoring on 15 minutes, although Botswana were back level on 23 minutes after converting a twice taken penalty. However, before the half-hour mark Guinea were back in front when Sadio Diallo restored their lead. Botswana were looking open at the back and the score was soon 3-1 when Abdoul Camara netted. Worse was to follow when Patrick Motsepe was sent-off for a very bad challenge in time added-on in the first-half. Guinea totally put the game out of reach with a fourth from Ibrahima Traoré just before the end of the first period. The second-half didn’t have quite the drama of the first forty-five, and Guinea scored two late goals through Mamadou Bah (84 minutes) and Naby Soumah (86 minutes).


Ghana (2) – Mali (0)

In contrast to the first game of the day, the significant action came in the second-half. Two excellent strikes saw Ghana virtually book their place in the knock-out phase of the competition. A beautiful curling free-kick from Asamoah Gyan gave Ghana the lead on 63 minutes and the lead was doubled on 76 minutes by André Ayew. From a lovely back-healed pass from Gyan, Ayew went right, then left to shake off two defenders before delivering a shot inside the post. A much improved performance from Ghana, but all still four sides in Group D could yet qualify.


Final Group D fixtures: Wednesday 01 February – Botswana v Mali and Ghana v Guinea

Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Tuesday 24 January 2012

Group D:

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.