Ghana v Guinea | Sunday 01 February | Malabo | 18:00
Guinea will meet Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final after progressing at the expense of Mali in the drawing of lots to decide Group D. Ghana are favourites ahead of the clash after topping the ‘Group of Death’ while Guinea can thank their lucky stars as they are yet to win a match in the 2015 AFCON, drawing all three of their group games.
To Win (90mins)
Ghana looked destined to crash out of the 2015 AFCON after Mandla Masango gave South Africa the lead in the 17th minute, but mounted a late fightback and remain in the hunt for Africa’s most prestigious football trophy. John Boye and Andre Ayew scored as Ghana came from behind to defeat South Africa 2-1 and seal their progress to the quarter-finals. It's a question of consistency for Ghana, who lost to Senegal 2-1 in their opening fixture only to beat Algeria and South Africa and take top spot in Group C. One factor that will need to improve by their standards is the use of initiative, leaving both of those aforementioned wins until the last minute, but a faster start could see them realise their potential. Ghana have won their last four quarter-finals in AFCON competition, which is the best among the nations competing in the 2015 AFCON - beating Nigeria in 2008, Angola in 2010, Tunisia in 2012 and Cape Verde in 2013.
Black Stars winger Andre Ayew has been rated as the best contributor to goals so far at the at the tournament. The Marseille playmaker has been influential for the Black Stars in their march to the quarter-final by scoring the final goal that secured the 2-1 victory over South Africa on Tuesday. He set up defender John Boye for the first goal that helped Ghana equalise before his goal that steered Ghana to the top of the Group of Death. In Ghana’s opening game against Senegal, Ayew also opened the scoring.
Guinea were the lucky party on Thursday, winning the aforementioned random draw of lots against Mali to schedule their appointment against Ghana in the knockout stages. The draw caused a mixed response among the football community. Guinea took the lead in the 14th minute of their last group game against Mali, with Kevin Constant coolly converting a penalty resulting from a handball in the eighteen yard area. Mali themselves earned a penalty less than two minutes later. Unfortunately for Mali, captain Seydou Keita’s penalty was saved by Guinea’s ‘keeper. However, Mali finally equalised in the 46th minute when Modibo Maiga headed Abdoulaye Diaby’s cross. Neither team was able to find a winning goal after that.
Guinea and Mali had finished level in Group D after they both had played out 1-1 draws in their previous matches, meaning lots were required to decide who finishes second and will face Ghana. Every match in the group finished 1-1 except Wednesday’s other match, in which Ivory Coast beat Cameroon 1-0 to qualify. It is the first time lots have decided a team's qualification in the tournament since 1988, when Algeria profited at Ivory Coast's expense. Guinea will rely on the strike partnership of Ibrahima Traore and Seydouba Soumah. Traore is shining in his role as team captain having scooped the Man of the Match award in Guinea’s opening two matches against Ivory Coast and Cameroon and also scoring a scorcher against the later. Soumah is yet to find the back of the net after scoring four goals in the six AFCON qualifiers for Guinea and his team will be hoping he comes alive here.
VERDICT: Ghana 9/10
Ghana are unbeaten in their five games against Guinea in the AFCON, winning three times and drawing twice. They were both drawn in Group E of the 2015 AFCON qualifiers and Ghana had the better part of Guinea, drawing 1-1 in neutral Morocco and winning 3-1 at home. Guinea will not go down without a fight and they have proved that with their credible 1-1 draws against Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Mali. However, the Black Stars have looked lethal since their opening day loss against Algeria and should have enough quality to see off Guinea.