Ghana, Mali advance to quarters
Ghana sealed the top spot in Group B of the African Nations Cup and a quarterfinal meeting with Cape Verde by outclassing Niger in Port Elizabeth 3-0 on Monday.
Ghana, a World Cup quarterfinalist, was simply too strong for an opponent that finished bottom of the pool. The Black Stars might have enjoyed an even more emphatic win.
Asamoah Gyan set the Black Stars on their way and Christian Atsu added a second before the break.
John Boye ended any faint hopes of a Niger comeback with the third soon after the break.
Niger, who needed a win to have any chase of progression, could look to one moment as a possible turning point, when it scored what it thought was an equalizer only to have it disallowed, but in truth Niger was dominated from the outset.
The Black Stars went in front after six minutes when Albert Adomah's ball in front the right was controlled with one touch Gyan, who then lashed home a low finish with his second.
Niger almost got an instant equalizer but its goal was disallowed with Moussa Maazou penalised, somewhat harshly, for a foul on goalkeeper Fatau Dauda.
The underdogs chanced their arm again when Mohammed Chicoto went for the spectacular, with his overhead attempt sailing over.
But it was at the back where they had problems and they fell further behind in the 23rd minute.
Gyan this time turned provider and his left-wing cross was controlled by the chest and then skilfully knocked in by Atsu at the back post.
Ghana almost had a third before the break only for Kassaly Daouda to superbly parry Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu's drilled shot.
Instead number three came just four minutes after halftime.
Gyan's header was saved, but Boye, sporting a peroxide cross in his hair, was the quickest to react and tapped home the rebound from barely a yard out.
Niger had no answer to their opponents' far superior ability and would have conceded again had Gyan not contrived to send a half-volley wide when it seemed easier to score.
It was never going to prove costly, though, as Ghana coasted to a comfortable win.
Ghana (2-0-1) won Group B, and Mali (1-1-1) finished second. Congo (0-0-3) was third, followed by Niger (0-2-1).
Mail 1, DR Congo 1
Mahamadou Samassa's early leveler ensured Mali progressed to the quarterfinals at the expense of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Durban.
Knowing nothing short of a win today would see it through to the knockout stages, DR Congo came flying out of the traps and took the lead through Dieumerci Mbokani's penalty.
But Samassa, starting in place of Cheick Diabate, equalized in the 13th minute, and while both sides had chances to win the match, they had to settle for a draw as Mali sealed its passage from Group B alongside Ghana.
But that looked a long way off when DR Congo attacked from the first whistle, with former Newcastle and Portsmouth striker Lomana LuaLua striking against the base of the post inside the first 30 seconds.
DR Congo continued to attack and they were awarded a penalty in the third minute when midfielder Yves Ilunga was tripped by Mohamed Sissoko in the area, with Mbokani hammering into the top corner from the spot.
It was just the start Claude Le Roy had wanted, with the coach bemoaning his team's goalless draw against Niger last time out.
But the goal spurred Mali into action and it equalized with its first opportunity of the match. Adama Tamboura's cross from the left side of the penalty area was slotted home from close range by Samassa in the 14th minute.
Mali then had an excellent opportunity to take the lead midway through the half but Adama Coulibaly headed wide from an inswinging corner by Seydou Keita, whose cross to West Ham striker Modibo Maiga shortly before the interval was nodded over.
It had been a real battle and with both teams capable of qualification, no one from either side wanted to make a costly mistake.
But Mali was holding firm, with Samba Diakite, Keita and Sissoko exceling in midfield to snuff out any openings DR Congo had.
Mbokani headed meekly wide just after the hour mark but at the other end, Robert Kidiaba's weak parry from Samassa's 20-yard effort only just went wide of the goal and spared DR Congo's blushes.
Mali goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa made a fantastic save from Youssouf Mulumbu's effort from just outside the area to keep the scores level.
But Mali showed they were not content to hang on for a draw, with substitute Diabate running through on goal and rounding Kidiaba but seeing his strike from a narrow angle hit the outside of a post.
It mattered little, however, as Les Aigles hung on in the closing stages to send DR Congo, which had drawn all three group matches, crashing out.