Ghana head coach Avram Grant faces a selection headache ahead of his side’s Africa Cup of Nations clash with Mali on Saturday.
The Black Stars triumphed 1-0 over Uganda thanks to an Andre Ayew penalty in their opening Group D fixture, leaving them two points clear at the summit following a goalless draw between Mali and Egypt.
That joy was tempered by an injury to left-back Baba Rahman, who is currently on loan at Schalke from Chelsea.
Rahman left the field with a knee injury after Ayew had fired Ghana in front and has since returned to Gelsenkirchen for further treatment.
And Grant is unsure who will step in for Rahman at Stade de Port-Gentil.
“I am still thinking about who will replace Baba,” Grant said. “He is a wonderful player and it is sad that he got injured. We wish him a quick recovery.”
— ASAMOAH GYAN (@ASAMOAH_GYAN3) January 19, 2017
Grant is keen to learn from past lessons as he looks to surpass the achievements of 2015, when Ghana lost to Ivory Coast on penalties in the final.
“In this tournament at the start it’s important to take the points and then you have to come to your best at the right time,” said the Israeli former Chelsea coach.
“In the last tournament we played very good against Senegal in the first game and we lost, even if at the end of the day we got to the final, so we just want to take the three points.
“Of course we can play better but this is a tournament and every game will be different.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ghana – Andre Ayew
Ayew scored Ghana’s winner from the spot in their opening victory over Uganda and is a reliable source of inspiration for his country.
The West Ham winger has scored seven AFCON goals since 2010 – the joint highest tally over that period.
The only man who can match that figure? Mali legend Seydou Keita, who is absent from this year’s tournament after effectively retiring in 2015.
Mali – Bakary Sako
Sako started on the left wing for Mali in their draw with Egypt but was unable to provide the spark needed to snatch maximum points.
His first-team opportunities have been limited at Crystal Palace this season, so he will be desperate to make the most of his opportunity to shine.
With Ghana heading into this match as favourites, Sako’s pace and power could be key to unlocking the Black Stars’ defence.
KEY OPTA STATS
– The record between Ghana and Mali in the AFCON is perfectly balanced, with two wins each. In fact, their four fixtures in the competition have come over the last three editions (two in 2012, two in 2013).
– Ghana have won eight of their last 11 AFCON group games (D2 L1). They have also scored in each of their last 17 group games.
– Ghana have also kept a clean sheet in each of their last four AFCON games. A fifth one would equal their longest ever run in the competition (1978-1980).
– Six of Mali’s last eight AFCON games have ended in a draw (W1 L1); including their last five group games.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!