27 January 2013

Ghana/Niger: Black Stars Face Niger As Strong Favourites

Photo: Luigi Bennett/Backpagepix
Rising Ghanaian star Christian Atsu scores against Niger.

Ghana will be heavy favourites when they meet Niger in their final Group C encounter in Port Elizabeth on Monday.

The Black Stars have not hit top gear yet at this Africa Cup of Nations tournament but looked solid in their 1-0 victory over Mali on Thursday, helped perhaps by some generous refereeing.

That victory leaves them needing just a draw against pool minnows Niger, who extended their unhappy record of no wins away from home in 21 years with their 0-0 draw against DR Congo last time out.

It looks a mismatch on paper, but finding consistency has been a problem for Ghana over the past few years and coach Kwesi Appiah has been talking up the Nigeriens to anyone who will listen.

“We have played two games and for me, our next game is the most difficult one,” Appiah said. “Looking at the Niger team, they are tactically very disciplined and I see it as a game that will be very difficult for us and for that reason we need to prepare very well.

"I have total confidence in my players. So far they are doing very well. I always believe in taking match after match. We'll all keep praying."

Appiah will have to do without livewire midfielder Mubarak Wakaso, who picked up a second yellow card of the tournament in the 1-0 win over Mali, lifting his shirt and displaying a religious slogan after slotting home the winning penalty.

Asamoah Gyan has yet to come to life at these finals, but those in the squad feel he is playing well and Appiah is said to be happy with his contribution.

Niger need a win to have any chance of going through, but then must also hope that Mali either win or lose against DR Congo in the other game in the pool. A draw in that match would see all four teams on four points and the head-to-head results between the three would see Ghana and Mali advance.

Niger coach Gernot Rohr was delighted with his side’s point in their last game against DR Congo, a first-ever for the side at this level.

“With such great players from Niger, you can only be proud of them,” Rohr said. “I’m very happy we have made some kind of history by collecting our first Cup of Nations point, hopefully more now can quickly follow.

“We have made some progress in this competition after losing all three matches in Gabon last year and we are only going to get better with this experience.”

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