Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Why Ghana and Mali Will Advance from Group B
On Sunday, Group A at the Africa Cup of Nations was settled in a crazy, 10-minute span at the end of play that eventually saw South Africa and Cape Verde advance to the knockout round.
So what will Group B have in store for us on Monday?
I'm sticking with chalk here. Ghana and Mali sit atop the group, and each team need only to tie to advance. Ghana has four points and plays Niger, currently at the bottom of the group with just a point, while Mali takes on DR Congo, a stiffer test indeed.
Monday's action should be plenty exciting, as all four teams are still in the running to advance.
Ghana has three things working in its favor—it's the most talented team in this group on paper, it's facing the weakest team in the group and it needs only a tie to win the group.
Ghana also leads the group with three goals in its two games, whereas Niger hasn't so much as scored in two games. Simply put, Niger doesn't have the talent to match against players like Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah.
Ghana will take this one, 2-1.
Mali against DR Congo is more intriguing. Mali is talented, with Seydou Keita, Mahamadou Diarra, Mohamed Sissoko and Cheick Diabate all pacing the team.
But DR Congo is a sneaky, unpredictable team. On one hand, it's a squad that is cable of tying Ghana, 2-2. On the other, it's a squad that only managed a scoreless draw against Niger.
What team will we see with a spot in the knockout phase on the line and only a win sending them through? Will DR Congo come out aggressive and Mali look more tentative and cautious?
I think DR Congo will indeed come out on the front foot and strike early, but Mali will keep things close and equalize in the second half. This game will end in a draw, 1-1, and Mali will move on.
But you just never know how teams will react to circumstance. Ghana is in a comfortable position and could even move on with a loss. Will that cause the group favorites to come out with a lack of urgency? Will they underestimate a Niger team that hasn't looked very good thus far in the tournament?
It's the same for Mali. Needing only a tie, will the team play too cautiously and pass over good chances? Will they simply park the bus and play for the tie?
I think both Ghana and Mali are talented and experienced enough in this tournament to approach Monday's games with the cutting edge they'll need. Plus, there is just no way I'm betting on Niger.
If Monday's action is anything like what we saw on Sunday, it will certainly be fun to watch.
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