Ghana book quarter-final spot, Egypt boost chances


Ghana became the second side to book a quarter-final place at the African Nations Cup finals in Gabon when they edged Mali 1-0 in Group D at the Stade de Port Gentil on Saturday.

Experienced forward Asamoah Gyan grabbed the only goal of the game to become his country’s leading all-time scorer in the continental championship with an eighth career strike across six tournaments.

Egypt needed a goal two minutes from time by substitute Abdallah El Said to beat Uganda 1-0, a result that ensured the East African side would be the first team eliminated from the tournament.

Ghana lead the pool with six points from two games, followed by Egypt with four, Mali one and Uganda zero.

Ghana rode their luck against Mali but joined Group B side Senegal in the next round and now face a shootout for top spot in the group with Egypt on Wednesday.

West Ham striker Andre Ayew missed a sitter when he shot wide of an open goal, but four minutes later Ghana were ahead as his younger brother Jordan Ayew whipped in a cross for Gyan to powerfully head home.

Ghana goalkeeper Razak Brimah had to make two excellent late saves to deny Kalifa Coulibaly and Bakary Sako as Mali pressed for an equaliser.

“We are pleased with our performance,” Gyan told reporters. “Whether we play an excellent match or not, we just want to win and advance in the tournament.”

It looked as though Egypt were headed for a second successive 0-0 draw but were rewarded for their persistence when El Said drilled the ball through the legs of Uganda keeper Denis Onyango after being teed up by Mohamed Salah.

Egypt’s Argentine coach Hector Cuper was relieved his side pulled off the win in testing conditions.

“It was difficult on that pitch and in this climate but we won and that is the important thing,” he said.

Gabon face a date with destiny on Sunday when they seek to avoid becoming the fourth host nation to bow out of the finals at the group stage in the 60-year history of the tournament.

Only a victory over Group A leaders Cameroon in Libreville would ensure their passage into the quarter-finals, though a draw could be enough if Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau finish all-square in the other match in Franceville.