Ghana can become the second team to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations if they beat Mali in Group D in Port-Gentil on Saturday. Avram Grant’s side won their opening game on 17 January against Uganda. A similar result would provide a berth in the last eight for the sixth consecutive tournament.
“In this tournament at the start it’s important to take the points and then you have to come to your best at the right time,” Grant said.
Ghana will be without Abdul Rahman Baba. The 22-year-old defender has returned to Germany where he plays for Schalke to assess the extent of the injury that forced him off during the match against Uganda.
Mali and Ghana clashes are usually intriguing. When they meet in group stage games, Ghana win. When they play in knockout matches, Mali triumph. Mali underlined their status as dark horses for the title with a 0-0 draw against Egypt in their first outing.
Coach Alain Giresse said before Saturday’s match that he was unlikely to name 20-year-old Yves Bissouma in the starting line-up despite the Lille midfielder’s dynamic cameo as a substitute.
“He brought his freshness to the game against Egypt,” said the former France international. “But let’s not forget that it is easier for him to come off the bench in games because of his age.”
Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, also came off the bench in the match. His 147th cap enabled him to become, at 44 years and two days, the oldest player to feature at a Cup of Nations tournament. The winner of four Cup of Nations winners’ medals is likely to gain cap number 148 against Uganda.
“Our responsibility has not changed too much. We still know that we need to win our next game to stay in the competition,” said Egypt coach Hector Cuper.