Share

Ghana v Mali

BBC coverage

How to follow:Text commentary on the BBC Sport website

MATCH PREVIEW

Ghana can secure a place in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations with a group game to spare if they beat Mali in Group D in Port-Gentil.

Avram Grant’s side, beaten on penalties by the Ivory Coast in the 2015 final, set themselves up nicely in this year’s tournament by edging out Uganda 1-0 courtesy of an Andre Ayew spot-kick in their opening match on Tuesday.

It was not a vintage performance from the Black Stars but, on a terrible playing surface, Grant is only interested in winning matches for now, regardless of the manner in which they do it.

“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,” said the Israeli former Chelsea coach.

“In the last tournament we played very good against Senegal in the first game and we lost, even if at the end of the day we got to the final, so we just wanted to take the three points.

“Of course we can play better but this is a tournament and every game will be different.”

Not everything is rosy in the Ghana camp, however. Baba Rahman’s tournament is over after he suffered anterior cruciate knee ligament damage in the first half against Uganda.

The left-back, who currently plays for Schalke on loan from Chelsea, has now been flown back to Germany to undergo further tests and possibly surgery.

Meanwhile, Harrison Afful is struggling with what could be malaria, and Ghana also went to the wrong training ground on Thursday.

When they eventually turned up at the right venue their players were forced to sit on the team bus for an hour because Uganda were still using the pitch.

West African rivals Mali showed that they are a team to be taken seriously when they drew 0-0 with Egypt in their first outing.

Alain Giresse’s side will now hope to build on that with some fans no doubt hoping to see more of 20-year-old Yves Bissouma after the Lille midfielder starred from the bench against Egypt.

“He brought his freshness to the game but let’s not forget that it is easier for him to come off the bench in games because of his age,” warned Giresse.

MATCH FACTS

When these countries meet in group games, Ghana win. When they meet in knockout matches, Mali win.

Ghana triumphed 2-0 in a 2012 mini-league showdown only to lose 2-0 when the sides met again in the third-place play-off.

Mali lost 1-0 a year later at the group stage, but once again reversed the result in the third-place play-off with a 3-1 triumph.

Ghana have won the Nations Cup four times, but the last success was 35 years ago against hosts Libya after a penalty shootout.

Mali finished runners-up to Congo-Brazzaville in 1972, conceding three goals in seven second-half minutes having taken the lead.

Leave a Comment