Football Features

Afcon 2019: Jordan Ayew strikes for Ghana and Mali top Group E with Haidara screamer

By CJ Smith

Published: 21:51, 2 July 2019 | Updated: 12:13, 4 July 2019

Ghana beat a resolute Guinea-Bissau side 2-0 on Tuesday to seal qualification to the knockout rounds of Afcon 2019.

Second-half goals from Jordan Ayew and Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey gave the Black Stars safe passage to top spot in Group F.

In the group’s other game, Benin slipped to third thanks to their 0-0 draw with Cameroon, who finished second despite scoring just two goals in three games.

Later in the evening, an Amadou Haidara thunderbolt handed Mali a 1-0 win over Angola to top Group E, while Tunisia sealed second spot despite only managed a 0-0 draw with Mauritania.

But what did we learn from Afcon 2019’s final group games?

1. Black Stars see off plucky Guinea-Bissau to seal qualification

As far as the Afcon 2019 big guns go, Ghana have been one of the flops of the tournament so far, struggling to a 2-2 draw with Benin in their opener before playing out a languid 0-0 draw with Cameroon.

But the Black Stars just about managed to get the job done regardless, seeing off Group F minnows Guinea-Bissau with a hard-fought 2-0 win on Tuesday which saw them leapfrog Benin into second.

They were made to work hard for their win and it took a fine effort from Jordan Ayew to break the deadlock shortly after half-time, while Guinea-Bissau continued to offer a threat throughout. But as long as they’re in the knockout rounds, Ghana are not likely to care how they got there.

2. Guinea-Bissau crash out with another blank

Guinea-Bissau can hold their heads high from their Afcon 2019 performance, conceding just four goals in three games in a group containing African giants Cameroon and Ghana.

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Ranked 118th in the world, they kept their more illustrious opponents working right until the end and caused trouble in a group which they went into without a hope or a prayer.

In the end, it was their blunt attack which let them down, failing to score a single goal at the tournament after they were unable to make what few chances they created count.

In a tight group phase, this will always cost you but, still, they’ll leave Egypt knowing they’ve given two of the pre-tournament favourites a serious examination.

3. Benin keep out Cameroon to sneak through

In what was honestly a pretty poor game, Benin once again impressed, holding Cameroon to a 0-0 draw. That makes it three unbeaten Afcon 2019 so far for Les Écureuils having drawn all of their games – not bad at all considering this was certainly a ‘group of death’.

In the end, those three draws have proved enough to take Benin through, sneaking above Kenya in the race to be one of the four best third-placed teams thanks to their superior goal difference.

Benin will now look to the likes of Steve Mounie and Steven Sessegnon to call upon their Premier League experience and help them defy the odds once again in the knockout rounds against Morocco.

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4. Thunderbolt seals top spot for Mali

In what was an incredibly tight game, with Angola bunkering in and hoping to catch Mali on the break, it took a wonder-goal to break the deadlock.

Mali worked the ball forward in the 37th minute and when Moussa Doumbia played the ball to Haidara, you had the feeling something special was about to happen. Haidara charged in from the right-hand side, lined one up with his left foot and absolutely drilled it into the far corner from 25 yards.

It was a goal worthy of winning a group match, final, Sunday afternoon kickabout or pretty much any other game you can think of and will surely be a contender for Goal of the Tournament. Not only was it a huge personal moment for Haidara, but it also put Mali top of the group with seven points, while Angola head home having failed to secure a spot as one of the best third-placed teams

5. Rugged Mauritania frustrate Tunisia

Having picked up their first ever Africa Cup of Nations point with a 0-0 draw against Angola in their previous game, Mauritania have already made their fair share of history in Egypt.

But, keen to impress again, they weren’t quite finished yet. That rugged defence and relentless press came to the fore once again on Tuesday as they eeked out another 0-0 draw against Afcon powerhouse, Tunisia.

Mauritania had just 39% of the ball but didn’t give Wahbi Khazri and co an inch, even coming close to pinching a shock win themselves on a number of occasions.

Tunisia still progress as group runners-up, while Mauritania head home finishing bottom of Group E with two points. But they’ve absolutely been a credit to themselves in Egypt and can take pride in their nation’s continued footballing development.

Afcon 2019 round-of-16 fixtures

July 5

Morocco v Benin

Uganda v Senegal

July 6

Nigeria v Cameroon

Egypt v South Africa

July 7

Madagascar v DR Congo

Algeria v Guinea

July 8

Mali v Ivory Coast

Ghana v Tunisia