23 January 2013

Ghana/Mali: Black Stars Face Tough Outing Against Mali

Photo: Chris Ricco/Backpagepix
Mubarak Wakaso of Ghana scores from a penalty against Mali, giving the Black Stars a routine assignment in their next match against Niger in their quest for a quarter-final place.

Ghana play Mali in the second match of their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Group B campaign on Thursday in a repeat of the bronze medal match at the finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon 12 months ago.

Mali triumphed on that occasion to finish third, and they have made a good start to to the 2013 edition as well, after a late winner from Seydou Keita handed them a 1-0 success against Niger.

Ghana let a two-goal lead slip against DR Congo, a game which produced both the best and worst of their play - incisive attacking, but naïve defending.

Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah was obviously disappointed with the result in the opener, but would not be swayed on whether he would change tactics or personnel for what is expected to be a tougher assignment against Mali.

"Any tactic that you play depends on the opponent that you are meeting," Appiah told reporters. "You look at how your opponent plays and then you would adopt your tactical play.

"Saying that, playing against Mali will depend on how we saw the game yesterday [Sunday] so we will sit down and plan our tactics.

"As to whether we will change some players in the team or we will keep the same team and play the same tactics will depend on our technical meeting which we will have this evening."

Appiah did suggest that home-based goalkeeper Fatau Dauda would keep his place in the starting lineup, and he has also backed youngster Christian Atsu to shine.

Atsu is seen as the bright new thing in Ghana football. He disappointed against Mali, but Appiah hinted that he would keep faith with the FC Porto star.

"Atsu is one of the young talents that every Ghanaian relied on to start very well in such a competition," Appiah said. "Most of the time, you could be the best player in the world but once you go into a competition that you have not been in before, you may start slowly.

"I have been talking to him.. and we need to raise his confidence level and psyche him up. And then I believe that you will see the real Atsu."

Mali have had some injury worries with Samba Diakite and Modibo Maiga, but coach Patrice Carteron expects them to be fit to face the Black Stars.

"We are waiting for them to be given the green light to play. They are showing positive signs at training and we can only take a decision on them after Wednesday's training," said Carteron.

The coach added that his players must now refocus for the Black Stars effort. A win will take Mali through to the quarter-finals.

"Niger is history now. The next match will be crucial because we know the Black Stars of Ghana. They have quality but we will match them on Thursday," the Frenchman said.

"We want to get two wins in two games so we can qualify to the next round and that is our aim. That is why we came here, and there is no escape route for the Black Stars on Thursday."

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