Another group has been settled at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Group B resolved with the favorites heading into the day moving on.
Ghana's victory was never really in doubt, as the country easily dispatched of Niger, 3-0, while Mali held on against a Democratic Republic of Congo team hungry for a win and forced a 1-1 draw, enough to help Mali advance as the second team out of Group B.
Monday saw some of the best, most exciting soccer of the group stage. Let's review what went down in Group B.
Ghana Defeats Niger, 3-0
It didn't take Ghana long to get on the board. And it took even less time to realize that the team was the better side that would be advancing in this contest.
Asamoah Gyan—who was spectacular throughout—settled an Albert Adomah cross and slotted it home to give Ghana the lead in the sixth minute.
Niger looked to have equalized shortly after, but a goal was disallowed after Moussa Maazou was called for a foul on the keeper. Perhaps that goal could have changed the course of the game for Niger.
But it wasn't to be, and Ghana were not to be denied. Needing just a draw to advance, Ghana instead remained aggressive, as Christian Atsu would score later in the half off a Gyan cross. From there, Ghana's ticket was punched.
Still, Ghana would take no chances. In the 49th minute, John Boye would easily score from a yard away after a Gyan header rebounded directly to him. That would be all she wrote in this one.
Niger ends this tournament without scoring so much as a single goal. Ghana will now face Cape Verde in the knockout phase.
Mali and DR Congo Draw, 1-1
What's in a draw? For Mali, a berth in the knockout phase against hosts South Africa. For DR Congo, the bitter disappointment of a tournament ending. And for the fans watching this particular draw, a whole lot of excitement.
Mali and DR Congo came in as evenly matched teams knowing a win (and in the case of Mali, a draw as well) would take them into the next round, and the match was a cracking affair for that very reason.
DR Congo came out absolutely buzzing in this one. Lomana LuaLua hit the woodwork about 30 seconds into the match, and after Mali midfielder Momo Sissoko tripped Yves Diba in the box, Dieumerci Mbokani would give DR Congo a 1-0 lead off the penalty kick in the third minute.
These teams certainly didn't waste any time getting after it.
In the 14th minute, Mali would draw even, as Mahamadou Samassa would finish an easy chance in the box to make the score 1-1. If you happened to turn this game on 15 minutes late, you missed a game's worth of excitement.
Both teams would continue to press the other, and the battle in the midfield was truly compelling stuff. But Mali would hold off DR Congo's many advances and will move on.
For DR Congo, this tournament will leave a bitter taste in the mouth. The team didn't lose a single game, drawing all three, but is still heading home.