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Ghana/Mali: Semi-Final Losers Make Final Effort to Win Afcon Bronze

posted by – February 10th, 2012

Ghanaian defender John Pantsil celebrates his team’s progress to the second round of the 2010 World Cup. (Photo Courtesy Allan James Lipp/BackpagePix)

Ghana take on Mali in the battle for the bronze medal at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.

The game between the semi-finals losers, which takes place in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, is a fixture that players traditionally don’t relish.

Indeed, most players on both sides would prefer to be heading back to join their usual teams in League action this weekend, but instead must put one final effort into a game that always has a hollow feel to it.

Saturday’s match could yet have some significance for the Black Stars though, with the tournament post-mortem likely to focus on the future of coach Goran Stevanovic and some of the team’s aging stars.

There have already been calls for the likes of John Mensah, Sulley Muntari and John Paintsil to retire from international football, so this could potentially be their final game in a Ghana shirt.

Defeat for Stevanovic would probably put another nail into his coffin as coach, while a victory could enable him to argue that the side at least finished on a positive note.

In the aftermath of Ghana’s semi-final defeat to Zambia, Mensah spoke about his side’s lack of luck on the night, but in truth they were the architects of their own downfall, with Asamoah Gyan missing a penalty and he and the other forwards missing a host of chances.

Unless they can find a cutting edge for this game against Mali, they could be staring another defeat in the face, since their opponents do look to have goals in them.

Definitely sitting out this fixture will be captain Mensah and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, who are injured, while midfielder Derek Boateng and the excellent defender John Boye are missing through suspension.

Another defender, Samuel Inkoom, has been trying to rally the troops ahead of the game by talking up the game’s importance.

“We need to go all out to get something. It is unfortunate that we could not take the trophy, that was our target, but I believe we have to do something for the nation,” Inkoom said.

“It might be third place but it’s another game and important to win for our country… We have psyched up ourselves and will do our best.”

Ghana have already defeated Mali once in this tournament, completing a 2-0 win in the group stages thanks to goals from Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew.

Saturday’s game won’t be easy, Inkoom added. “They will come for revenge but we will do our maximum best to beat them again.”

Mali are likely to keep the same side that ran Cote d’Ivoire close in their semi-final on Wednesday, with the pressure off. A win here would be seen as a bonus for the side, but a fourth-placed finish will probably also exceed pre-tournament expectations.

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