Guinea target full marks against Ghana, Ghana Blackstars Declare War On Guinea, Mali target quarters as Group D wraps up, Botswana to Frustrate Mali.
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Guinea will throw everything at Ghana in a third west African derby of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations Group D here Wednesday to stay alive in the competition.
The Syli National are on three points from two matches and need to beat the Black Stars to boost their chances of a place in the last eight on six points.
Even defeat could still see them progress, depending on the result of the tie between Mali and Bostwana being played at the same time in Libreville.
Four-time winners Ghana defeated Guinea 2-1 the last time both teams clashed in the Nations Cup in 2008.
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Guinea go into this game on a high after trouncing Botswana 6-1 on Saturday following the narrow 1-0 loss to Mali in the opening fixture.
Only Egypt in 1963 and the Ivory Coast in 1970 have scored as many goals in the Nations Cup tournament proper as Guinea recorded at the weekend.
"We made a big statement. And now we will do everything to stay on in Gabon. We are determined and we have to play at a very high level," said Guinea coach Michel Dussuyer, whose team upstaged star-studded Nigeria to reach this tournament.
"We know that against Ghana we will have to do more.
"I respect Ghana, they are a high level team with some great players. They did well at the 2010 World Cup and also reached the final of the last Nations Cup.
"They are a top team, but we want to win and qualify for the quarter-final. We don't wish to go back home yet."
"This tournament is very open, some of the favourites have already left, while Gabon and Equatorial Guinea are through to the quarter-finals," he added.
Bastia striker Sadio Diallo crowned his first start of the Nations Cup with two well-taken goals against Botswana.
And he also vowed that this was a win-or-bust game for the Syli National.
"We will continue to work hard. We will play hard and not joke against Ghana," said the 21-year-old striker.
Diallo as well as youngsters Abdoul Razzagui Camara and Ibrahima Traore have caught the eye in Gabon with some game-winning performances playing alongside experienced campaigners like Bobo Balde, Pascal Feindouno and skipper Kamil Zayatte.
For their own part, Ghana laboured to beat debutants Botswana before they turned on the class in the second half to beat Mali 2-0.
If the 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists win their group, they will face either inspired co-hosts Gabon or Tunisia in the next round.
However, they have insisted that they are not particular about staying clear of any team as they aim to end a 30-year trophy drought.
"We have quality players and we don't care who we meet when we qualify for the quarter-finals. We are prepared for any team and we will take our chances, said 'Baby Jet' Asamoah Gyan, who scored a goal and created another as Ghana dumped Mali.
"What is most important is that we should be ready for whoever comes by because we want to qualify for the semi-finals," added Ayew, who scored the second goal to cap another hard-working performance against Mali.
Skipper John Mensah should be fit after a muscle injury, he has served a one-match suspension for his red card against Botswana.
His return will give coach Goran Stevanovic a pleasant selection headache as he could pick any of his four central defenders following also the availability of Hoffenheim ace Isaac Vorsah after a two-match suspension.
The less established John Boye and Jonathan Mensah have covered for the Black Stars in the absence of top stars John Mensah and Vorsah.
Ghana Declare War On Guinea.
Ghana Black Stars
Ghana will tackle their final Africa Cup of Nations group match against Guinea by the scruff of the neck, assistant coach Kwesi Appiah has declared.
The Black Stars lead with six points but could still be eliminated if they lose heavily against the Sylli Nationale and Mali also thump Botswana.
Last Saturday, Guinea equalled a 42-year-old record for the biggest winning margin at a Nations Cup finals with the 6-1 drubbing of Botswana.
Pundits say Ghana's title winning credentials will face a stern test against their West African neighbours but the technical team is confident of extending their unbeaten run.
'The next game we are playing against Guinea is very important for us,' assistant coach Kwesi Appiah said.
'Fortunately we had some tapes on them before the tournament and after our game against Botswana.
'We stayed over to also look at them and we got some tapes on their game against Botswana so we will be assessing all these tapes today or tomorrow before our game on Wednesday.
'But we will treat it as we did with the first two games,' he added.
Gyan confident of victory over Guinea.
Asamoah Gyan says he is in the right frame of mind to fire Ghana past Guinea on Wednesday in the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
The Black Stars striker got his first goal of the tournament in the 2-0 victory over Mali on Saturday when he curled in an outstanding 30-metre free-kick.
The UAE-based attacker also provided the assist for Andre Ayew to score the second goal in the game that has put Ghana on the brink of a last eight place.
Gyan is brimming with confidence going into the game against the Sylli National after getting his first goal in this year's tournament.
"Every striker needs a goal for his confidence and that was what happened. I think I am feeling good for tomorrow [Wednesday's game with Guinea]," Gyan said on Tuesday after training.
With Guinea also buoyant of their chances following their 6-1 hammering of Botswana, the top-of-the-table clash at the Stade de Franceville on Wednesday is set for a thrilling finish.
"Yeah, it would be a tough game but what matters is Ghana winning each game," he said.
The Black Stars need a draw against Guinea to finish top of Group D.
Muntari relishing Ghana win over Guinea.
Sulley Muntari holds sweet memories as Ghana come up against Guinea at the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
Four years ago when Ghana staged the 2008 Cup of Nations tournament, it was Muntari's 89th minute goal from a terrific left footer into the upright that handed the Black Stars a 2-1 opening victory over their opponents for Wednesday.
The stakes are completely different now. A draw, at least for Ghana in Franceville, will see them into the quarter-finals - no matter the result when Mali play Botswana at the same time.
Muntari, one of just seven[John Mensah, John Paintsil, Andre Ayew, Asamoah Gyan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Anthony Annan] players in the present squad who were available on that day in Accra, says the most important thing is a Ghana victory.
“The important thing that is we win. Yeah, four years ago we won and that was sometime ago. Things have changed now,” Muntari told www.ghanafa.org.
“We need to win and their team is not the same like four years ago just like ours.”
And the experienced attacker recollects his goal but is not thinking about personal glory.
“If it happens, fine. We are a team with the same ambition, to win. We just want to win,” he said.
Mali target quarters as Group D wraps up.
Mali and even Botswana, thrashed 6-1 by Guinea, go in search of a place in the quarter-finals as Wednesday's Group D games brings down the curtain on the Africa Cup of Nations first round.
The group is on a knife edge with any of the four teams - leaders Ghana and second-placed Guinea clash in Franceville at the same time - still in contention to progress.
What is certain is that if Mali win, irrespective of the result up in Franceville, they will go through. Botswana need to win by a cricket score and pray Guinea thrash competition favourites Ghana to give them any chance.
Mali, coached by former Gabon boss Alain Giresse, are aiming to pick themselves up after a 2-0 loss to Ghana on Saturday, that came on the back of an opening 1-0 win over Guinea, Bakaye Traore's first half goal earning them the points.
In the aftermath of the Ghana defeat Mali skipper Cedric Kante said they have not given up hope of reaching the quarter-finals of the tournament.
"We still have our destiny in our hands as it is now down to our last game against Botswana," said the Greece-based centre half.
"We did not fight, we were not daring and we did not ask questions of the other team."
In the absence of big names like Mahamadou Diarra, Momo Sissoko and Frederic Kanoute, who has quit international football, Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita has assumed greater responsibilities.
He has extolled the virtues of team unity.
"We need to continue to play as a team. A team who depend only on individual players will fail, but a team who are united and play for each other, will always win."
Even if qualification is all but a distant dream Botswana will be desperate to draw a line under their record-equalling loss to Guinea and restore their battered pride.
The coach of the Nations Cup first-timers, Stanley Tshosane, said: "We have to accept this and continue with our mission.
"We are a small nation - it's not an excuse - with limited professional players compared to other teams here. We are sorry to our fans.
"No one did us any favours for us to get here. We worked to get here so Mali will have to work hard for what they want."
"I have spoken to the team and I told them we cannot reverse what has happened, but we have to continue with our mission here."
Mali's goalscorer against Botswana, midfielder Traore, believes he and his teammates did not put up their best performance against Ghana.
"We were not afraid of Ghana, but we did not play to our potentials. We were not aggressive, but this match is now in the past and we have to forget it and focus on our next match against Botswana."
Hosts in 2002, Mali's best performance was when they made it to the final in 1972. They have made it to the semi-finals three times since then, in 1994, 2002 and 2004.
We'll Frustrate Mali said Botswana Coach Tshosane.
Botswana say they are pulling Mali along with them out of the 28th Africa Cup of Nations as Guinea target a win against the Black Stars on Wednesday to stay in the competition.
“We are going back to Botswana with a win and it is unfortunate that Mali are the ones to suffer,” Coach Stanley Tshosane said, promising to set all guns blazing against the Eagles.
“We are already down and there is nothing to lose against Mali. We are making sure we go out together with them,” the coach who guided his charges be the first country to qualify for the finals said last Saturday.
The Zebras of Botswana are yet to pick a point from the tournament, having lost two matches against Ghana and Guinea.
Coach Tshosane said the move was to save his job and to convince the authorities back home why his contract should be extended.
His contract ends next month and the coach is scared he could be fired if he returns with nothing to show on the country’s debut at the Nations Cup.
“I don’t think losing one match is enough for one to be fired. I hope I will be given another chance to build on where I have started,” the coach stated.
Among the proposals the coach expects to submit to his authorities, is a deliberate policy to give local players exposure in foreign leagues especially in Europe.
He reckons that the exposure by the Ghanaian and others teams was what worked against them.
Wait and see.