Ghana’s Black Meteors will now slot it out with South Africa in the third-place play-off on Friday for a spot in next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
The Young Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire yesterday booked qualification to the finals of the ongoing Africa Under-23 tournament after defeating the Meteors 3-2 on penalties, following a 2-2 drawn game after extra time at the Cairo International Stadium.
The victory thus see the Ivorians to the Olympic Games and also a ‘fierce’ date for the African trophy against host nation Egypt who beat South Africa …
Against Ghana yesterday, Ivoirian goalkeeper Elizier Tape was the hero of the game, saving three spot kicks from Emmanuel Cudjoe, Evans Mensah and Kwabena Owusu to send his side to the Olympics for the second time in their history.
Twice, Ghana came back into the game through skipper Yaw Yeboah and Evans Mensah in the 51st and 90th minutes respectively after Youssouf Dao had struck twice in the 13th and 84th minutes of the duel.
The Young Elephants began the game on the strong note forcing the Ghanaians to chase shadows and always second to the ball.
After a series of missed opportunities in the open exchanges the Ivoirians broke the deadlock when a ball through the middle found Hamed Junior Ouattara who slipped it in between defenders Habib Mohammed and Zackaria Fuseini onto the path of Dao to cooly slot home.
The Ghanaians lived dangerously after that goal and nearly conceded the second goal through Dao but his near post tap missed the post after being put through by Aboubacar Doumbia.
The marking by the Ghanaian team was very suspect and this allowed the opposition to have a field day on the ball, dictating the pace of the game, forcing coach Ibrahim Tanko to bring on Kwabena Owusu in place of Robin Polley.
With an animated Ghana Football (GFA) president Kurt Okraku watching his side from the presidential box alongside FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura and Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) president Ahmad Ahmad, the Ghanaian lads pulled parity six minutes after the break with Yeboah striking home a Samuel Obeng cross from about 12 yards to beat Tape.
Inspired by the goal, the Meteors raised their play in search for the advantage. However, it was Dao who struck again on the 85th when he rose to head home a cross from Silas Gnaka pass Baah in post.
Just when the Ivorian bench began to celebrate victory, Mensah popped up to blast in the equaliser in time added-on to send the game into extra time which could not produce further goals.
BY RAYMOND ACKUMEY