Ghana’s Black Meteors yesterday defied all odds to qualify for the semi-final of the ongoing final qualifiers to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after beating Mali 2-0 in their final group game.
The victory places the Meteors in second position, four points behind host Egypt who are top with nine points.
A brace from substitute Kwabena Owusu within a spate of nine minutes revived coach Ibrahim Tanko’s side’s hope of an Olympic qualification dream.
Brink of elimination
Having drawn their opening game against Cameroun (1-1) and succumbed 2-3 to Egypt in their second game, which had left them with a point and in third place in Group A, the Meteors were almost on the brink of elimination but luck shone on them yesterday when they beat Mali 2-0 while Egypt beat Cameroun 2-1 to aid the Meteor’s progression to the semifinal.
With the odds against them, the Meteors needed a good win in the final game against Mali to advance, hoping that Egypt would do them a favour by beating Cameroun.
However, the Malians did not come easy, as they frustrated the Ghanaians, particularly in the first half which ended goalless.
Keen to get the team to perform better than they did in the first half, Coach Ibrahim Tanko withdrew Robin Polley who was handed a starting role for the first time, replacing him with Owusu.
That brought some bite in the attack of the Meteors but they had to wait till the 74th minute before they could reap the full benefit.
Owusu superbly finished off a pass from Kingsley Fobi to break the deadlock.
Unrelenting in his effort to get more goals, the Cordoba forward made it 2-0 again on the 85th minute, connecting from a set-up from Michael Agbekpornu, not only to win this cagey encounter for his side but earned the plaudit as the super sub for the day
Also, he becomes the top scorer so far for Ghana at the tournament with his brace.
The victory places Ghana second in group A with four points and a goal ahead of Cameroun, who finished on four points but without a goal advantage and Mali who exited without a point.
Hosts, Egypt, finished as group winners with nine points.
Having qualified, the Meteors will now play the winners of Group B in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
Group B games
The final Group B matches will be played today with all to play for as South Africa (four points), Cote d’ivoire (three) and Nigeria (three) all have a chance to advance with Zambia on one point as the outsiders to make it.
Today’s match up is a West Africa versus Southern Africa affair with Nigeria up against South Africa while Cote d’Ivoire play Zambia.