The Black Meteors of Ghana will this evening target a win against Les Aigles of Mali, while hoping results elsewhere favour them to make it to the next round of the ongoing Under-23 AFCON in Egypt.
A draw with Cameroon and a loss to Egypt from the two previous games, has made qualification for the Meteors a difficult task as a win or draw for Cameroon against Egypt in the other group game, will all but crush the dream of a semi-final berth for Ghana.
Coach Ibrahim Tanko and his charges are seeking to be among the first three teams at the tournament to make an appearance at next summer quadrennial multi-sports global event in Tokyo, Japan, for the first time in 16 years.
“We will play to win against Mali today. However, qualification to the next stage is currently out of our hands,” he said.
With Ghanaians calling on him to take a second look at his approach to the game and strategy, the 42-year-old coach says he would map out a strategy to outwit the Malians to victory.
Ruining the dramatic loss to host Egypt on Monday, skipper of the side Yaw Yeboah believes there is a glimmer of hope for Ghana.
“We are very focused on the game today and picking the three points at stake is more important.”
Admitting that what will happen in the other game between Egypt and Cameroon would be key to their qualification, Yeboah said they are thinking of winning their game before looking at that direction.
“We, the players are focused on winning our game and that is the most important thing to do now. After we are done with that we will then look at what happens in the other game.”
On the other hand, Mali who have had a disappointing run at the tournament, losing two straight games which have effectively knocked them out of contention for the next round, harbour the thirst to bow out on a winning note and have vowed to achieve just that this evening.
Coach Fanyéri Diarra believes a face-saving result against Ghana will somewhat appease his home fans who had very high hopes in the team qualifying.
“We have been disappointing at this tournament and going back home with no point will be worse off than going with at least three points and that is exactly what we will be aiming at today.”
According to him, Ghana is a side he hugely respects and admires and would want to beat to appease the fans back home.
Coincidentally, Athens 2004 was the first and only appearance Mali has made at the Olympic Games, a tournament which was also the last Ghana featured in.
BY RAYMOND ACKUMEY