The day of reckoning for the competition’s Group of Death arrives with all teams in with a shout of making the last eight. After a disastrous start, the Black Stars will need to win to ensure progress, South Africa having squandered two leads also need to win but will their progress will depend on the other group’s fixture. All involved in this fixture at the Estadio de Mongomo, from players, coaching staff to fans would need to keep a keen eye on proceedings in Malabo where Algeria were facing Senegal, a tense evening promising to follow.
There had been a certain level of criticism levelled at the Ghanaian side coming into the match, the side still suffering from a post-World Cup hangover and the jury still out in regards to new coach Avram Grant. But it was they who started the brightest, keeping possession for long spells without resorting to the long ball tactics resorted to in their opening games of the competition. The first chance of the game fell to Daniel Amartey, heading wide across the face of the goal. The FC Copenhagen defender was in the thick of the action ten minutes later, this time defensively. His header at the edge of his eighteen yard box failed to get the distance required, falling to Mandla Masango who’s volleyed effort flew past Ghanaian goalkeeper Brimah Razak giving him no chance. Another effort to trouble the goal of the tournament radar and Bafana Bafana once again found themselves in the lead, this time more important for them than ever to hold on to the lead. Ghana continued where they had left off before conceding, pushing bodies forward in attack, baba Rahman forcing a great save from keeper Khuzwayo with a fine volley from twenty yards. South Africa were making a game of it though, shortly before half-time Bongani Ndulula coming close with a strong headed effort, reminding Ghana of the scale of the task ahead.
As the second half started, the tension in the air was evident, Ghana once again on the edge of an early competition exit, and with Algeria ahead in the other Group D game, a draw would be of no use, a win was required. Chances continued for the Black Stars, though a certain nervousness crept in to their game, each mis-placed pass or shot off-target met with groans from the expectant crowd. But that was all to change shortly after the 70 minute mark when a sliced shot from Andre Ayew landed at the feet of John Boye, the defender spinning and shooting Ghana back into the game and the competition. Boye, one of the most vilified of Ghana’s players still in the squad from last year’s World Cup debacle ran to the cameras to make a point of hushing his many detractors, was it redemption for versatile defender, the Black Stars had less than twenty minutes to make it so. It took only ten minutes, under a tidal wave of pressure, Bafana Bafana could hold out no more, Andre Ayew this time the scorer, heading past the on-rushing Khuzwayo from a pin-point accurate Rahman cross. Once again South Africa had spurned a lead, as they had in the two previous matches and their deflation was now evident. But he score remained at 2-1, somewhat flattering the South Africans, Gyan coming close with a headed chance and a well-taken free-kick, substitute Kwesi Appiah also coming close with a shot turned onto the post. After a poor start, Ghana now go through as group winners of the Group of Death, looking to be a threat for the 2015 AFCoN title, Wakaso Mubarak in particular producing a world-class performance in midfield in the vein of previous Ghanaian legends like Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah. Certainly a side to watch in what promises to be a compelling encounter with the Group D runners-up, Ghana have turned things around in Equatorial Guinea whereas we farewell a South African side who’s naivety in defence has cost them in each of their 3 games but with 2 more years international experience under their belts they may prove to be contenders in Lybia 2017.