Ghana, Egypt chase top spot …aS Mali hopes for a miracle

Asamoah Gyan - Prays for a win

Asamoah Gyan – Prays for a win

Seven-time African Nations Cup (AFCON) champions, Egypt comes face-to-face with Ghana in Port-Gentil today needing only a point to qualify for the quarter-finals alongside the Black Stars.

Egypt can even go through regardless if Mali fails to beat Uganda in the other Group C match.

But a win for Egypt would allow them to leapfrog Ghana and advance as group winners.

However, the Ghanaians have made clear their unwillingness to vacate Port Gentil despite the bad nature of the pitch and would want to safeguard a point to welcome their quarter-final opponent.

That might not be what they want, however – the group winners will remain in Port-Gentil for the quarter-finals while the runners-up must up sticks to Oyem in the north of the country – a journey that could have an effect on their training schedule.

An awful pitch in Port-Gentil has had an adverse impact on the quality of the football played there and heavy rain in the city since the weekend will only add to the problem.

“Everyone wants to play in the other city. No one wants to play in this stadium,” Egypt’s Ahmed Elmohamady said.

“But for us we need to win, we want to win the group. It’s about getting the points, it’s not about the stadium.”



Hull City defender, Elmohamady played when Egypt beat Ghana 1-0 in the 2010 final in Angola to win a third successive Nations Cup.

More recently the Black Stars triumphed 6-1 in a World Cup qualifier in October 2013, but Egypt then won 2-0 in a 2018 World Cup qualifier last November.

While Egypt have a doubt over full-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi and 44-year-old Essam El Hadary remains their only fit goalkeeper, Ghana coach Avram Grant may be tempted to rest some first-choice players.

Skipper Asamoah Gyan will hope to feature however. The striker netted the only goal in Saturday’s victory against Mali and he has now scored eight times at the Nations Cup over six consecutive tournaments.

The 31-year-old is also closing on a significant landmark as his next goal will be his 50th in international football.

“In tournaments you don’t look for personal glory,” he said when asked about the significance of reaching his half-century.

“Maybe after if I get on the score sheet then I can celebrate personal glory, but as a striker people expect you to score and I am here to win the trophy.”

That is something he has not yet managed to do with the Black Stars winning the last of their four Nations Cup titles back in 1982.

They have looked like one of the most accomplished sides so far in this year’s tournament, despite losing left-back Abdul Rahman Baba to a serious knee injury in their opening 1-0 win against Uganda.

In other group match, Mali must beat Uganda in Oyem and hope Egypt lose to Ghana in the other Group D match if they are to reach the quarter-finals.

But to do that, Alain Giresse’s side need to improve in front of goal having thus far failed to score.

Christian Atsu - Stars' tormentor-in-chief

Christian Atsu – Stars’ tormentor-in-chief

Eliminated from the Nations Cup in 2015 in bizarre fashion after a drawing of lots with Guinea in a hotel meeting room in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo, another such scenario is possible.

Mali and Egypt drew 0-0 with each other in their first game and so if they end up locked on the same points and same goal difference, such a last resort will be required to separate them.

Uganda, meanwhile, are already eliminated so will hope to bow out of their finals appearance in 39 years by registering a first goal and a first win.

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