Uganda vs Egypt – 10pm
Mali 0 Ghana 1
Starting line-up: D Onyango (GK), D.Iguma, G.Walusimbi, H. Wasswa, M. Juuko, K. Aucho, G. Kizito , T, Mawejje, F Miya, G.Massa (Capt), J. Ochaya.
Port-Gentil, Gabon | AFP |
Ghana secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations as Asamoah Gyan’s goal was enough for them to beat Mali 1-0 in Port-Gentil on Saturday.
On an appalling playing surface, Gyan headed home from Jordan Ayew’s cross in the 21st minute to score his eighth goal at the Cup of Nations over six consecutive tournaments going back to 2008.
With two wins from two matches in Group D, 2015 runners-up the Black Stars are certain of another appearance in the knockout stage of a tournament they have won four times.
Mali have just one point but are not out of it yet, while Egypt and Uganda meet in the other Group D game later.
The state of the pitch meant the teams were not allowed to use it for their pre-game warm-ups, instead being forced to do use an indoor facility.
The surface did not lend itself to a flowing game of football, but at least the sizeable Malian community in this Gabonese port city made for a raucous atmosphere.
Sadly for them, Ghana initially coped better on the pitch and they should have been in front in the 17th minute.
The standout performer at the last Cup of Nations, Christian Atsu did brilliantly on the right before delivering a low ball to the near post which Jordan Ayew would surely have converted.
However, Andre Ayew took the ball off the feet of his younger brother and stabbed a shot wide.
Nevertheless, Avram Grant’s men were ahead before the midway point in the first period as Jordan Ayew crossed from the right and captain Gyan rose unmarked to head past Oumar Sissoko in the Mali goal.
The Ghana players celebrated by running across to the bench and holding up t-shirts with a message of support for left-back Abdul Rahman Baba, whose tournament was ended by a serious knee injury in the opening win against Uganda.
Sissoko did well to save a Jordan Ayew cross-cum-shot that bounced awkwardly in front of him and Mali then came out with greater purpose after the break.
Just as in their opening goalless draw with Egypt, the introduction of exciting young Lille midfielder Yves Bissouma gave them an extra impetus.
Despite that, they could not find an equalising goal, with Moussa Marega heading straight at Razak Brimah from a Bakary Sako cross and defender Salif Coulibaly hooking a shot just wide after Ghana had struggled to clear their lines.
Ghana were hanging on right until the end, with goalkeeper Razak making a fine reaction save to deny substitute Kalifa Coulibaly from point-blank range in the 90th minute and then beating away a Sako volley in injury time.
Cranes face uphill task
Cranes can look back at their second half performance against Ghana as an indication they can match the very best at the African Cup of Nations.
They will need that level of performance, and more, when they face record seven-time champions Egypt today. Uganda’s record against the Pharaohs shows only one previous win – in a friendly.
“We need to be mentally strong, physically fit and tactically competitive in that game and see what football gives us,” admitted coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic.
Uganda played well for much of their opening match against Ghana but Micho was left to lament a mistake by defender Isaac Isinde that gave the Black Stars the decisive penalty.
The Cranes are now looking for their first win at the Cup of Nations after 39 years away from the tournament and they can welcome back defender Murushid Juuko and midfielder Khalid Aucho after both served bans against Ghana.
“It is very unfortunate that one moment, one silly mistake cost us the penalty,” Uganda coach “Micho” told AFP.
“It is very unfortunate that despite all the domination we had in the second half, we could not score.
“But we have picked up the pieces, we have learnt the lesson and we are moving forward to the next game.
Defeat today will mean certain group-stage elimination in their first appearance at the tournament in 39 years.
|18 Jan 1962||Egypt v Uganda||L||2-1||Africa Cup of Nations|
|04 Apr 1965||Uganda v Egypt||W||5-1||International Friendly|
|04 Jun 1967||Uganda v Egypt||L||0-1||Africa Cup of Nations|
|03 Dec 1972||Egypt v Uganda||D||2-2||International Friendly|
|01 Mar 1974||Egypt v Uganda||L||2-1||Africa Cup of Nations|
|03 Mar 1976||Egypt v Uganda||L||2-1||Africa Cup of Nations|
|18 Nov 1977||Egypt v Uganda||L||1-0||International Friendly|
|21 Jan 1995||Uganda v Egypt||D||0-0||Africa Cup of Nations|
|28 Jul 1995||Egypt v Uganda||L||6-0||Africa Cup of Nations|
|20 Aug 2002||Egypt v Uganda||L||2-0||International Friendly|
|29 Dec 2002||Egypt v Uganda||D||0-0||African Games|
|08 Jan 2005||Egypt v Uganda||L||3-0||International Friendly|
|27 Dec 2005||Egypt v Uganda||L||2-0||LG Cup|
|08 Jan 2011||Egypt v Uganda||L||1-0||International Friendly|
|17 Jan 2011||Egypt v Uganda||L||3-1||International Friendly|
|29 Mar 2012||Egypt v Uganda||L||2-1||International Friendly|
|14 Aug 2013||Egypt v Uganda||L||3-0||International Friendly|
|21 Jan 2017||Egypt v Uganda||Africa Cup of Nations|
Egypt goalkeeping crisis
Egypt disappointed in their first appearance at the Cup of Nations after a seven-year absence, with star man Mohamed Salah being substituted in the second half following a poor display.
Egypt enter the game with goalkeeping worries following injury to their first choice in the draw with Mali.
Injury has also affected the other team in the group Ghana, with coach Avram Grant has called for Africa Cup of Nations organisers to allow teams to replace players who have suffered injuries because of the state of the pitches in Gabon.
The Black Stars have lost left-back Abdul Rahman Baba to a serious knee injury suffered in the first half of Ghana’s 1-0 win against Uganda on Tuesday.
Egypt also lost goalkeeper Ahmed El Shennawy to injury, and with Sherif Ekramy also in the treatment room suddenly coach Hector Cuper has a bit of a crisis.
Essam El Hadary, who came off the bench against Mali to become the oldest player ever at the tournament at the age of 44, will now start against Uganda in Saturday’s second game.
“Our responsibility has not changed too much. We still know that we need to win our next game to stay in the competition,” admitted Cuper.
Five facts for the Group D match between Egypt and Uganda in Port-Gentil Saturday :
— Tradition suggests Egypt will win 2-1 because that was the scoreline in their favour on the three previous occasions they met Uganda in the competition.
— The Pharaohs overcame the Cranes in a 1962 semi-final and during the group phase of the 1974 and 1976 tournaments.
— While Egypt have won the Cup of Nations a record seven times, Uganda came closest to glory in 1978 when finishing runners-up to hosts Ghana.
— Both countries have been notable absentees from the tournament with Egypt missing the last three editions while Uganda are appearing following a 39-year break.
— Striker Mohamed Salah is the best known Egyptian while Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango won the 2016 Africa-based Footballer of the Year award.