Ghana, Mali advance to African Cup quarters
By Gerald Imray ,APPORT ELIZABETH, South Africa -- Asamoah Gyan powered Ghana into the knockout rounds and laid down the challenge to Didier Drogba and Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations on Monday.
January 30, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
Mahamadou Samassa's equalizer also squeezed Mali through from Group B as the first two quarterfinal lineups were decided.
Nearing top gear, Ghana will face Cape Verde in a match pitting the four-time champion against the tournament debutant in Port Elizabeth.
Because of its problems back home, Mali will have the support of many neutrals in the other quarterfinal on Saturday when it meets host South Africa, which will have the overwhelming backing of a 50,000-plus crowd in Durban.
Gyan scored one and set up two as Ghana finally announced itself as a genuine title contender with a flowing 3-0 win over Niger to finish top of Group B. Mali's hard fought 1-1 draw with Congo ensured it qualified second in the group.
“Today was a great day for us. All the players are happy ... Their confidence is growing,” Gyan said.
While the Cape Verdeans will have undoubtedly watched with some trepidation as Gyan and Ghana's new breed of attacking youngsters picked apart Niger's previously miserly defense at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, the Black Stars' slick performance may also have raised some eyebrows in Rustenburg on the other side of South Africa, where Ivory Coast is preparing for its final group game.
Gyan and fleet-footed newcomers like Christian Atsu and Albert Adomah showed that favorite Ivory Coast's heavyweight stars might not have a straightforward march to the title.
“We have to admit that we played a team that was a little bit faster than us,” Niger coach Gernot Rohr said after Ghana rushed into a 2-0 lead inside the first 25 minutes and could have won by five or six goals.
Convincingly turning around his and Ghana's sluggish start to the Cup of Nations, Gyan smashed in the opening goal in the sixth minute, set up Atsu for the second in the 23rd and had a major role in a third for John Boye early in the second half.