GHANA 2-0 CAPE VERDE
Ghana didn’t make any changes to their starting lineup in relation to the game against Niger, whilst Cape Verde switched Platini and Gégé for Heldon and Nivaldo. This means that both managers were pretty confident of their players and strategies.
Not what we were expecting
The first half was a rather cagey affair, with neither team creating a clear-cut chance at goal.
However, it was evident from the start that the Blue Sharks were not going to be pushed around by the more experienced and technically able Ghanaians, using impressive amounts of solidarity and teamwork, both in defense and offense. Despite the inferior possession, most of the attacking movements came from the islanders, who made the best of Ghana’s poor use of the ball.
Alas, the first half didn’t provide much in terms of opportunities, but it was still an entertaining affair and promised an exciting second half.
Exciting isn’t enough to describe
Just a few minutes after the start of the second half, Cape Verde lost one of their key men, Ryan Mendes, due to injury, with Platini replacing him. A few seconds after that, Cape Verde had a very good chance through Júlio Tavares, which was saved by Dauda.
On the counter, Asamoah Gyan was taken down by Carlitos and referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn (I like to write these names) signaled to the penalty spot. On closer inspection, I don’t really think it should’ve been. Wakaso Mubarak took the kick and with a straight-forward shot, beat Vozinha to give the Black Stars the lead.
The goal seemed to ignite a fuse on the back of the Cape Verdean players’ heads, because they then began to attack frantically, making loads of chances, from both running play and set-pieces, giving Dauda a lot of work and not allowing Ghana to have many opportunities to go forward.
In the 59th minute, a shot from Platini was brilliantly saved by Dauda, who had no idea what was still to come. Cape Verde continuously attempted to create chances, mostly via set-pieces from Heldon and Babanco and making the best of Ghana’s nervousness in the latter, but the final touches and finishing failed to bother the Ghanaian keeper too much.
In the last 10 minutes, the match picked up yet another notch. In the 81st minute, substitute Djaniny fired a shot which was amazingly saved by Dauda, efficient and photogenic at the same time. Not long after came Ghana’s only real chance at goal, with lovely play by Solomon Asante, who crossed into the path of Agyemang-Badu, but the ball was intercepted the defense and put out to a corner.
In stoppage time, the dramatic climax to the match. If you followed the qualifiers, you may remember that Heldon scored a brilliant goal from a free kick in the match against Cameroon. He quite nearly replicated that feat, apart from the fact that Dauda saved the shot.
Shortly afterwards a corner to the Cape Verdeans sounded like the last chance of the match. Goalkeeper Vozinha also came up to the Ghanaian box to try and help out, but it backfired. The ball was recovered and Wakaso Mubarak simply had to be faster than the Cape Verdeans and put the ball into the back of the net, scoring a somewhat unfair goal.
2-0 the final score. Cape Verde fall, but they fall proudly, with amazing performances and reflecting the humble spirit that characterizes the nation. Ghana progress to the semis, where they’ll meet either Burkina Faso or Togo.
Man of the match: Fatawu Dauda
The Ashanti Gold shot-stopper, one of the few players to still ply his trade in the domestic league in the Ghana squad, was instrumental to the success of Ghana’s performance. Provided amazing saves throughout the match, celebrating each one as if he had just won the lottery. His club must be delighted that the transfer window is closed, or else he’d be on the first plane out of South Africa onto a new club.
SOUTH AFRICA 1-1 MALI (MALI win 4-3 on penalties)
Much of the pre-game focus was the physical composition of the two sides. Mali’s imposing (all but one of the starting XI are over 6’0”), foul-heavy against the diminutive, lightweight players of South Africa. Gordon Igesund was fully aware of Mali’s physicality, drafting in the completeness and mobility of the Reneilwe Letsholonyane next to Dean Furman. The misfiring Katlego Mphela was dropped, the pacey Tokile Rantie given the task of spearheading the attack. The other change came in at right-back where the experienced Siboniso Gaxa came in for the suspended Anele Ngcongca.
Bafana Bafana with their best half of the tournament
South Africa raced out of the blocks in the opening stages. The midfield pivot of Letsholonyane and Furman provided the brawn to match imposing Mali midfield, establishing the platform for the regal runs of May Mahlangu through the centre, whilst the pace and pressing of Rantie added further impetus. The Bafana Bafana got their deserved lead on 31 minutes via a trademark Mahlangu run through the centre, his ball finding Thuso Phala in the box, whose shot-cum-cross fell to the feet of Rantie for the Malmo striker to simply fi.
Whilst the impressive start by South Africa had shocked them, for much of the first half Mali had shown little ambition, the occasional foray forward crippled by a mismatch of striker Mahamadou Samassa, who had little support, faced by the South Africa back four. But despite losing the bulldozing runs of Samba Diakite due to concussion, the goal triggered Mali to end the first half more proactive.
Mali rewarded for progressive early substitution
South Africa started the second half the brighter but gradually allowed Mali back into the game, Mali’s mantra transformed completely when defensive midfielder Momo Sissoko was sacrificed for the more adventurous Mahamane Traore on the 55th minute. Two minutes later, striker Mahamadou Samassa burst through the South Africa defence and crossed for captain Seydou Keita to head past Khune from close range.
There were few chances after that. Mali almost had a chance to go ahead immediately, with a Gaxa error allowing Samassa to break into the area, but, with the angle against him, the Chievo striker shot straight at Itumeleng Khune.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, both teams seemed content to let the game peter out, wary of making the mistakes that could prove to be so costly. Extra-time proved to be a tedious affair with both sides unwilling to commit too many men forward.
So, it was left to penalties. Siphiwe Tshabalala converted South Africa’s first spot-kick but with Furman Mahlangu missing, and Mali converting all theirs, Majoro had to convert. He missed, completing a succession of poor South Africa penalties and sparking Mali celebrations.
Man of the Match: Adama Tamboura
Seydou Keita may have won the official man of the match, but left-back had the boundless energy of a powered-up pacman; showing no sign of weariness even deep into injury time. Able to simultaneously attack and defend, his battle with the sturdy-shouldered Thuso Phala down the left wing was a particularly fascinating battle, and one he came out on top in.