Chelsea stalwart Michael Essien scored once and set up Portsmouth midfielder Sulley Muntari for Ghana’s second goal and that was all The Black Stars needed to see off Morocco yesterday and win Group A, likely avoiding Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals by doing so. The 2-0 scoreline was even a bit misleading as Ghana really dominated this game, but Morocco were very unfortunate to have an own goal by Ghana and West Ham defender John Paintsil disallowed as the whistle had already been blown for a foul even though replays showed there was none.
As the host nation, Ghana had been expected to make a deep run in this tournament and have lived up to that so far, winning all three of their group matches. On the other hand, Morocco will be disappointed with how things turned out. The Lions of the Atlas were predicted by most people to go through as the group runner-up, but a surprise loss to Guinea did them in.
Speaking of Guinea, they picked up a point against minnows Namibia with a 1-1 draw and coupled with Morocco’s loss, that result was enough to see them through to the last eight. The National Elephants were playing without their best player and captain, Pascal Feindouno, who was serving the first game of a two-match ban for a stupid red card he received in his country’s win over Morocco. Souleymane Youla scored in the 62nd minute but Namibia spoiled a victory and earned their first point of the tournament in the process with an 81st minute goal from Brian Brendell.
Guinea will likely play the Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals and without Feindouno, I don’t think they have any chance to win that game. Regardless, advancing to that stage of the tournament would be significant as it would be the third straight African Cup of Nations in which they did so. Before that, the last time they progressed to the quarterfinals and behind was 1976, so it shows the upward trend of soccer in Guinea.
Final Group A Standings: (Teams in bold advance)
1. Ghana (9 points, +4 goal differential)
2. Guinea (4 pts, 0 GD)
3. Morocco (3 pts, +1 GD)
4. Namibia (1 pt, -5 GD)
Group B wraps up today with things looking fairly stable. Ivory Coast will battle Mali and although the former have already qualified for the quarterfinals, they still need a draw or victory to win the group while Mali only need a point to advance but would need to win the game to win the group. Look for Nigeria to put a hammering on Benin today as the Super Eagles need a win and an Ivory Coast victory to avoid the embarrassment of exiting the tournament early.