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Ghana vs. Mali: Five Things We Learned from the African Cup of Nations Clash

Posted On Thursday, 24th January 2013
Ed Dove is Bleacher Report's African Football Expert and he examines the five things we learnt from Ghana's clash against Mali at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

Ghana defeated Mali 1-0 at the Africa Cup of Nations on Thursday

Group B returned with one of the most high-profile matches of the tournament so far; a West African derby between Mali and Ghana, two of the continent’s biggest teams and two sides hoping to make a big impact in the latter stages of the Afcon.

The fact that the match was a replay of the third place playoff from last year’s edition of the cup was testament to the quality of the teams on display and their ambitions.

Whilst the match, sadly, was underwhelming, the result creates an intensely fascinating scenario in one of the competition’s tightest groups.

1. Congo Can Be Confident

At the time of going to the press, the Democratic Republic of Congo are engaging with Group outsiders Niger—a must-win for the Leopards and a game that could see them make big strides towards qualification from a tricky group.

Unfancied before the tournament, the former-Zaire were my pick to be the Dark Horses of the Afcon. Whilst I was exacerbated by the goals they conceded against Ghana in their first Group B clash, Claude Le Roy’s boys picked up the pace, and, driven on by their impressive spine of players, came back to draw with the Black Stars.

I fancy Congo to best Niger this afternoon, which will lead to a straight shoot-off between them and Mali in the group’s final game, a match which may well decide who qualifies from the group along with Ghana. With the Eagles looking less than impressive tonight, I might well tip the Congolese to once more upset the applecart and do the business in this final deciding game.

2. Diabate Has Some Way to Go to Replace Kanoute

Of the numerous powerful strikers that have headed to South Africa to front their national sides this January, Cheik Diabate has been one of the most disappointing. Whereas Dieumerci Mbokani was influential for Congo in their first game, and Ideye Brown impressed up top for Nigeria in their draw with Burkina Faso, Diabate has, over two games, flattered to deceive.

Some had envisaged that this would be the tournament where Mali found a new scoring sensation. Fredi Kanoute—all 6’4″ of him—had previously been that man, finding the net 23 times in only 39 internationals between 2004 and 2010. Alas, since his international retirement, the side are yet to find an ideal replacement—that figurehead who will score the goals that take Mali places.

Hope that it might have been Diabate looks to be dissipating, and while, at 24, time is on his side, aspirations that he might replicate his impressive 2012 Afcon look to be misplaced.

3. Ghana Not the Finished Article

For some 50 minutes against the DRC in their first Afcon match, Ghana looked like the real deal. They may have conceded a lot of possession to the Leopards, but they weathered the storm and eventually took the lead through first Agyemang-Badu, and then, Kwadwo Asamoah.

Then came the dramatic comeback by the Congolese, and all of a sudden, Ghanaian superiority didn’t seem so sturdy. Their game against Mali was a chance for the Black Stars to reaffirm their dominance and to demonstrate their intentions to take this competition by the scruff of its neck.

Unfortunately, and frustratingly for James Kwesi Appiah—the Ghana boss—his team failed to ally the result with an assured performance. The West Africans may still come good and put in a convincing performance, but at the moment, beyond the splatterings of excellence, they look like a whole lot of mediocrity and nerves.

It’s hard to proclaim the Black Stars are the champions-elect just yet.

4. African Goalkeepers: Some Worrying Trends

African Goalkeepers—they’ve always been a problematic bunch. Exceptions such as Jacques Songo’o or Thomas N’Kono have been rocks behind their defences and brought the best out of those in front of them. The general consensus, though, is that African ‘keepers are too often a liability and as likely to cost their team a point as they are to secure a victory and establish some confidence among a back line.

The Afcon 2013 is doing little to change the perception. Muteba Kidiaba, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with his bizarre haircut and almost perverse ‘”bum-scoot” celebration, has done little to affect the stereotype.

Mali have encountered opposition goalkeepers with some wild ideas about how to manage a defence. In their first game they were the beneficiaries as Nigerien guardian Kassaly Daouda failed to claim a cross, allowing Seydou Keita to steal the points for the Eagles.

Another goalkeeping blunder in their second match should really have ushered them on their way to victory once more, but despite handling the ball, deliberately, outside his area and preventing a goal-scoring opportunity, Fatawu Dauda escaped dismissal, as the ref only produced a yellow card.

With the game only in its early stages, being reduced to ten men could have been almost-fatal for Ghana. Instead, they survived, and even went on to pick up the three points.

Mali will be hoping that the eccentric Kidiaba will provide a hat-trick of goalkeeping gifts in their final Group B contest with Congo.

 

5. Characterless Ghana Contributing to Underwhelming Cup

This observation is a little harsh, and perhaps it’s too soon to say that Ghana are characterless. It’s perhaps not the right word, or perhaps not the most refined of sentiments. Johnny Paintsil has certainly won many admirers in the past with his flag waving antics, while the stories of Albert Adomah and goalscorer Mubarak Wakaso are both endearing and engrossing.

However, it’s hard to enjoy these contemporary Black Stars as much as their performances have been relished in years past. Even though Baby Jet Asamoah Gyan is there, his entourage are a bunch far less vivid and engaging than they have been in the past.

What a price to pay to enjoy the bustling, bruising powers of the Bison Michael Essien, who just having turned 30, should be in his prime? The talents of Sulley Muntari and “The Tornado” Stephen Appiah, so dynamic and potent when in their stride, are also gone from this squad whilst Kevin-Prince Boateng, Ghana’s highest profile star, is also absent after declaring his international retirement at the age of 24.

As if this quartet of absentees wasn’t enough, the Ayew brothers, André and Jordan, two men who appeared poised to declare themselves as stars at this stage, haven’t made the squad. The tournament, which is struggling to spark to full-paced fury, would be so much more the spectacle with characters such as these participating.

Still, perhaps over the course of time, maybe even over the course of this tournament, some among these new look Black Stars will emerge as new stars, new idols, new characters for a nation that seems to produce them so easily.

Ed Dove is Bleacher Report’s African Football Expert, you can follow him @Eddydove

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READERS COMMENTS

  1. GH FUO, THINK BIG!!! says:

    GH VS MALI!
    WE MUST BUILD MORE ON OUR 2 TOUCH AND PASSING ACCURACY. ESPECIALLY IN AND AROUND THE 18 YARD BOX.
    our PLAYERS LACK DISCIPLINE
    TOO MANY UNECESSARY TACKLES. TOO MANY YELLOW CARDS. IT WILL HAUNT US LATER OOOOO
    IN 2 GAMES, WE HAVE 6 YELLOW CARDS. IF WE BAG 3 YELLOW CARDS PER GAME IN THIS TOURNEY, WHERE WILL IT END US?
    AA IS TOO HARDHEADED. CONTINUING TO USE AFFUL AT LEFTBACK IS A BAD IDEA.
    IF AND WHEN WE MEET A BETTER OPPONENT, GH WILL PAY DEARLY
    PAINSTIL SHOULD NOT BE STARTED ON THE RIGHT. BOYE, BOYE…WAT WAS HE THINKING? I TOLD U AA, NOT
    TO START BOYE. DEFENDERS PROTECT THEIR GOALIES FROM HARM. WAT BOYE DID WAS VER VERY STUPID…
    USE AFFUL ON THE RIGHT. WAKASSO OR KISSI ON THE LEFT/3. KASA AT THE 11. KASA HAS BEEN INACTIVE AND
    USELESS IN MIDFIELD. USE HIM ON THE WING AT THE 11. LET HIM AND ATSU OVERLAP…
    THE TEAM SHOULDNT BE TOO EXCITED. WE COULDNT SCORE FROM OPEN PLAY BUT THRU A PENALTY
    GYAN WAS USELESS. EVEN THE WHITE COMMENTATORS SAID THEY WERENT IMPRESSED WITH GYAN THIS FAR.
    KASA IN MIDFIELD WAS ALSO USELSS. THE SOLUTION: START CLOTTEY AHEAD OF GYAN. USE KASA ON THE 11,
    ATSU ON THE 7 AS A SUB FOR ADOMAH
    AA MUST STRIVE FOR PERFECTION!. STRIVE FOR PERFECTION!

  2. Zg says:

    Dont it seem like Blackstars made it the next round no matter happens monday? or am i wrong.

  3. Asem says:

    l really don’t understand this piece oo!!can’t we for once cherish those players who have made it to south africa and forget about absenteeeessss ooo toon!!!

  4. texas says:

    Ed Dove Bleacher Report’s African Football Expert my ass. What is so expert about this useless article?
    Black Stars are doing very well. And remember no team has really stood up so far…..just wait and see.

  5. jb says:

    Asem…i agree with you about the sickeningly nostalgia…we live in a fast pace world now… the tournament goes with the new Black Stars..so far as the coach field the best players he has, we are good…we do not need to look back for any player..ghana is still underperforming…with this win, they can play more relaxed..

  6. yaw2 says:

    This is not the best from Ghana but they are young and united with black coach..That’s why they will win the cup..We are saving the best for the world cup….

  7. lord gee says:

    i think the players did their best to win the came but i still akwasi appiah should position k asamoah well.go blackstar go ghana

  8. Anokwale says:

    This is a humble group and I think that is the key. The draw with Congo was actually a good thing. They are now forced to understand their individual weaknesses and play as a team. The Mali win was not the best but tactically, they did what they needed to do to survive. My hope is that they play a solid game against Niger. Mathematically, they need a win or draw to move on. They could still get lucky if they lost and DR Congo and Mali played to a draw. That would be interesting.

  9. zambia is our toilet hole says:

    GHANA IS ALREADY IN THE SECOND ROUND BECAUSE NIGER AT THEIR BEST CAN ONLY HOLD US TO DRAW.BUT I PITY ZAMBIA BECAUSE THEY ARE OUT.

  10. African Consciousness says:

    I implore our Coach to use fresh legs against Niger. Rest Badu, Paintsil, Adomah, Boye, and Gyan. Give some new players their debut including goalkeeper Adam.

    Vorsah, Afful and Rabiu Mohammed all had their debut games today and the team was no worst for it. I would say they actually looked better. So against Niger the Coach can bring in a completely fresh line up to confound the opponent without missing a beat.

    1. Adam
    2. Akaminko
    3. Kissi
    4. Jonathan
    5.Vorsah
    6. Annan
    7. Boateng
    8. Asante
    8. Atsu
    9.K Asamoah
    10. Rabiu
    11. Clottey

  11. freshboi says:

    dont under estimate any team

  12. African Consciousness says:

    Every player selected by the Coach is good enough and should be able to play when called upon. Ghana is a big country with loads of talent. The Coach selected his best 23, the cream of the crop and should not be afraid to start them. Do not select a player who is not good enough to play and when you select them because they are good then logically you must play them. New players should step in without the team missing a beat. As fans we all have our favorites and we want to see them play. So Coach Appiah we implore you to play them, the fresh legs will not hurt your either.

  13. African Consciousness says:

    correction: “the fresh legs will not hurt your team either”.





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