Certain things in life are above football, and the perturbing events that has happened in Egypt is certainly so. These events have constituted a distressing back drop as the African Cup of nations nears its finale. The quarter-finals are scheduled to be played on 4th and 5th of February, and after the preview for the matches to be held on 4th, here is a look at the games that awaits us on 5th.

 

Ghana

V

Tunisia

Stade d’Angondjé

5th February, 2012 – 1700 GMT

***

Ghana entered the tournament as one of the favorites. In their opening match of the group stages, Ghana met Botswana. In a match dominated by John Mensah, for his winning goal and a red card for an unceremonious tackle on Jerome Ramathlakwane, Ghana took home all three points. It was a scrappy performance but their first win of the tournament none the less. The Black stars sat prettily at the top of the group after 2-0 win over Mali. It was a much better and convincing performance this time around, with Asamoah Gyan being the star performer. The former Sunderland striker scored the first goal with a sumptuous free-kick from 30 yards out, while he set up the second for his team-mate Andre Ayew.

Ghana went into the last match of the group stage requiring just a draw against Guinea to win the group. Ghana opened the scoring in the 28th minute after Emmanuel Agyemang Badu scored for them. The Black Stars though, were immediately pegged back after the half time as Guinea equalized through Abdoul Razzagui Camara. Guinea created lots of chances after that but failed to convert them and to add to their misery as Mamadou Bah was sent off. Ghana somehow managed to hold on a draw and topped the group with seven points.

Even though the Black Stars qualified into the quarter finals maintain an unbeaten record, they have hardly set the tournament on fire. The team is heavily dependent on Gyan to deliver the goods and have often failed to control the game in the midfield. Goran Stevanović knows his team has to improve a lot if they want to end their 30 year drought (of winning the AFCON cup) this time around. The defense of the team has been the bright point though. It has conceded only one goal in the three matches so far.

Ghana’s expected line-up: Asamoah Gyan, John Pantsil, Samuel Inkoom, John Mensah, Emmanuel Badu, Andre Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah, Adambathia Kwarasey, Sulley Muntari, Masahudu Alhasan, John Boye.

Tunisia started their campaign against Morocco in the Maghreb derby. Khaled Korbi and Youssef Msakni scored for the Carthage Eagles as they held on from a late comeback from the Atlas Lions. Despite dominating most of the possession Morocco were unable to find the back of the net more than once. In the second match of the group stage, Tunisia secured their berth in the quarter-finals as they beat Niger 1-2 and Morocco lost to Gabon. Youssef Msakni was again on the score sheet with an early goal in the 4th minute of the match. The Carthage Eagles were pegged back immediately though, as the Mena leveled the score through William Tonji Ngounou against the run of play. The match was dominated by Tunisia with Niger playing mostly on the counter attack. In the 90th minute Tunisia’s all-time leading goal scorer Issam Jemaa broke Nigerien hearts as he scored the winner.

In their final match of the group, Tunisia faced co-host Gabon. With both the teams having already secured qualification into the next round, it was a match to decide the group winner. The Carthage Eagles made lot of changes to the starting line-up as coach Sami Trabesi decided to give the squad players a run on the pitch. Tunisia dominated the Panthers as they kept possession and had plenty of shots on goal. Msakni was deployed in a more central role in this match and was the star performer in this match.

Despite having plenty of shots, Tunisia couldn’t find the back of the net as they lacked the finishing quality. Then in the 62nd minute of the match, Gabon scored through a counter attack. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s striker turned out to be the only goal of the match as Tunisia failed to claw their way back into the match. This loss meant they qualified as runners-up in the group. In the aftermath of the match, midfielder Adel Chedli left the squad to return home, as his relation with coach Trabesi worsened. Chedli was displeased about the fact that he wasn’t even played in the third match even when Tunisia had already secured their place in the quarter-finals.

Chedli’s walking out might have left a bad imprint on the Tunisian squad, but they will have to pull themselves together before the tough match against Ghana. Tunisia haven’t kept a clean sheet in three matches so far, and despite their midfield dominating in the games, the Carthage Eagles’s defense looks vulnerable on the counter attack.

Tunisia’s expected line-up: Bilel Ifa, Karim Hagui, Ammar Jemal, Youssef Msakni, Khaled Korbi, Yassine Chikhaoui, Mejdi Traoui, Zouhaier Dhaouadi, Aymen Mathlouthi, Aymen Abdennour, Sabeur Khalifa

TheHardTackle’s Men To Watch Out For

Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), Youssef Msakni (Tunisia)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Ghana 1-0 Tunisia

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Gabon

V

Mali

Stade de Franceville

5th February, 2012 – 2000 GMT

***

The fourth quarter-final is going to be played in Stade d’Angondjé stadium in Gabon. The co-host nation will face Mali in front of the home support. Gabon has been one of the most exciting team to watch in this year’s edition of African Cup of Nations. German coach Gernot Rohr has got the team to play attacking football and the team has responded well. The Panthers opened their account with a comfortable victory against Niger. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Stephane N’Guema scored in the first half of the match to seal a dominant win. Gabon edged out Morocco in a thrilling encounter in  one of the matches of the tournament so far, which was an open, attacking and physical match.

Houssine Kharja opened the scoring in the 25th minute, after The Atlas Lions dominated early periods of the game. The Panthers didn’t give up easily and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal in the 77th minute started a comeback. Daniel Cousin thought he has booked a place in the quarters for his team as he scored just two minutes later, but there was twist left in the tale. Houssine Kharja completed his brace in the first minute of extra time and the scores were level again. It looked liked heading towards a draw, when substitute Bruno Zita scored from an absolutely brilliant free-kick in the 7th minute of added time. Gabon won the match 3-2 which ensured their qualification and Morocco’s elimination.

In the final match of the group stage, Gabon faced up against Tunisia, with both teams having already qualified for the quarter-final stage. Gernot Rohr made some changes to the starting line-up as he looked to use his squad. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continued his wonderful goal-scoring form in the tournament as he scored again in the 62nd minute of the match, which turned out to be the winner. Gabon with this victory qualified as group winners. Rohr’s team has maintained their 100% record in the group stages, winning all the three matches. Aubameyang and N’Guema looks in great form and are central to the team’s success.

Gabon’s expected line-up: Didier Ovono Ebang, Edmond Mouele, Remy Ebanega Ekwa, Bruno Ecuele Manga, Stephane Eguema Ondo, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eric Mouloungui, Levy Clement Madinda, Andre Biyogo Poko, Cedric Moubamba, Charly Moussono Moussono

Mali got their campaign off to a great start with a closely fought 1-0 victory over Guinea. Nancy midfielder Bakaye Traore scored the winner in the 30th minute in a match where both the teams struggled to get going. Next up for the Eagles was a match against Ghana, who are one of the favorites to lift the trophy. In what turned out to be a physical affair Ghana won the match 2-0, with goals from  Asamoah Gyan and  André Ayew in the second half. It was disappointing performance from the Eagles who had it all to do in their final group stage match against Botswana to qualify.

Going into the final match Mali had to win and also hope that Ghana hold off Guinea, to keep their chances of qualifying alive. The first half was a drab affair to say the least, but the Zebras took in lead early in the second half through Mogakolodi Ngele. At this stage Mali were on the verge of being knocked out even if Guinea loses their match against Ghana due to inferior goal difference. But the Eagles fought their way back into the match, as only 6 minutes later Garra Dembele scored the equalizer. Mali star man and Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita scored the winner in the 75th minute as they qualified into the next round following Guinea’s loss to Ghana in the other match.

Mali’s performance in the group stages has left lot to be desired and some would say they were lucky to qualify for the knock-out round. Alain Giresse has a lot of work to do if they are to breed any hope of progressing further in the tournament. Their forward line has looked lackluster and their defense weak. Mali has an uphill task at their hand to contain a very attack minded Gabon side when they meet this Sunday.

Mali’s expected line-up: Oumar Sissoko, Adama Tamboura, Ousmane Berthe, Cedric Kante, Abdou Traore, Modibo Maiga, Garra Dembele, Seydou Keita, Drissa Diakite, Bakaye Traore, Samba Sow

TheHardTackle’s Men To Watch Out For

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), Seydou Keita (Mali)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Gabon 2-0 Mali