Sunday, June 7, 2009

WCQ Preview: Mali - Ghana

The odds favour Mali to take full advantage of playing in front of their fans to pick up maximum points against next-door neighbours Ghana this weekend.
The Eagles from Bamako were held to a 1-1 draw in Sudan in March, and a win over a Ghanaian team weakened by several withdrawals on Sunday would certainly get their campaign back on track.
Ghana struggled to beat Benin 1-0 in Kumasi in March, but Mali coach, Stephen Keshi, has insisted that he is not fooled by this performance and his team will have to work hard to stop the five-time African champions.
"It is being rumoured that they played below their capacity, yet they are top the table," said the Nigeria-born coach.
"Let everyone else be fooled by the performance of the Black Stars but count me out, I won't fall for this.
"I know the quality of the Ghanaian side and I will not allow a single performance to distort the reality about their strength."
In April, Keshi had a chance to look more closely at the players in the domestic league when they engaged their Guinean counterparts in a friendly.
Injury-Hit Ghana Face Tough Road Trips
Group leaders Ghana go into their match in Bamako with a long list of players who will not be available no thanks to injuries - Sulley Muntari (Inter Milan), Asamoah Gyan (Rennes), Laryea Kingston (Hibernians), Stephen Appiah (no club) and Derek Boateng (FC Cologne).
There are also very much aware that the conditions could be very difficult in this poor, land-locked country, meaning they have to be at their very best to avoid a defeat.
That explains why they prepared for this encounter in the northern Ghanaian town of Tamale, which shares similar arid weather conditions with next-door Mali.
A 2-1 victory over Uganda in a warm-up game would also have done a world of good to the confidence of the Black Stars, who were not at their best against visiting Benin two months ago.
Centre-forward Junior Agogo, who was overlooked for the Benin match as a result of his troubles at Egyptian club Zamalek, has been recalled and has a tough job playing as a lone striker against a team, who are known to play out of their skin at home.
Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien was a major doubt for this match, but he has since gone through with his court hearing over a compensation claim brought against him by a former lover.
He will therefore be involved on Sunday and said he is looking forward to a battle against Mali's Seydou Keita (Barcelona) and Momo Sissoko (Juventus).
“They have some of the best midfielders in the world so it will be a special battle and I am looking forward to it,” he said.
“Hopefully we should come out well because I believe we have the men to do well.” TEAM NEWS
Going by the latest FIFA ruling 23-year-old Olympique Marseille striker Mamadou Samassa, who was included in a 25-man squad for World Cup ties this month, can now play for the birth place of his parents.
Real Madrid star and skipper Mohamadou Diarra is still out of action no thanks to a long-term injury. Squad:
Goalkeepers: Maha (Greece), Sissoko (Metz), Soumbeyla (Stade Malien)
Defenders: Adama Tamboura (Helsingborg), Coulibaly(Auxerre), Diamoutènè(AS Roma), Drissa Diakité(Nice), Cheick Ballo(ASKO), Tori(Fes), Soumaré(Chigago fire),Amadou Sidibé (Auxerre)
Midfielders: Lassana Fane (Elmerriekh sudan),Bakaye Traore (Amiens), Momo Sissoko (Juventus), Se. Keita,sambou Yatabare (Caen), El haj Mahamane (Nice), J.B. Kebe (Reading), Dembele (Dac)
Strikers: Modibo Maiga (le Mans), Mad Diallo (Le Havre), Kanouté (Seville), Moustapha Yatabaré (Clermont), Samassa (Marseille), Cheick Tdianne Diabaté (Ajaccio)
Fulham defender John Paintsil has insisted that the Black Stars have the mental strenght to stand up to Mali in Bamako, saying their opponents big-name players do not intimidate them.
Coach Milovan Rejavac said the pressure is on Mali to win."They are the ones playing at home, they are the ones who must deal with the pressure," reasoned 'Milo'.
Goalkeepers: Richard Kingson and George Owu.Defenders: John Mensah, John Paintsil, Samuel Inkoom, Harrison Afful, Jonathan Quartey and Eric AddoMidfielders: Anthony Annan, Moussa Narry, Samuel Kyere, Michael Essien, Kwadwo Asamoah, Bernard Yao Kumordzi, Haminu Draman and Isaac Vorsah.Strikers: Joetex Frimpong, Prince Tagoe, Opoku Agyeman, Junior Agogo, Ernest Papa Arko and Mathew Amoah.
Mali - Kanoute - The 2007 African Player of the Year will be relied on for the goals in this West African fray. He has kept his form in front of goal for Spanish club Sevilla and the home fans will now expect to translate such form on Sunday.
Ghana - Michael Essien - The Chelsea ace is back from a long-term injury and showed he is still top-class act with some great displays for his English club in both the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League. He will lead the Black Stars out in Bamako and he is expected to lead by example.
The battle will be won and lost in the midfield with Mali to sneak it by an odd goal. The Black Stars are without several of their quality players and this will impact on them.Victory two weeks later against Benin also in Bamako could then set up a keen rivalry between Mali and Ghana leading to qualification for the World Cup by November.
Source:Samm Audu,

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