The Black Stars laboured to a 1-0 victory against Uganda in their opening game. Ghana were less than convincing but credit to them for grinding out a result against an opponent they recently struggled with in the World Cup Qualifiers. However, it will be of concern to most fans how unconvincing they looked. Even more of a concern was the serious injury picked up by star left back Baba Rahman. He’s now ruled out for the rest of the tournament which is a massive blow. Vice captain and highly influential leader Andre Ayew is rated doubtful for this match against Mali due to illness. So Ghana will head into the game shorthanded. Coach Avram Grant will be stepping down from the helm after this tournament. He’s not the most popular coach amongst fans anyway and some of his squad selections were very strange.
Picking up a 0-0 draw against Egypt has to be classed as a success for Mali. The Eagles actually grew stronger as the game progressed too and finished much the better side. On another day they might easily have won the contest. Morale is good within the camp and they seemed to adapt to the terrible Port Gentil pitch better than any of the other sidesv in the group. Mali have some big powerful bodies in their side which allows them to go route one and direct if needed. But perhaps the most impressive thing with Mali was their stamina. Temperatures are really hot at this venue but in the second half it was obvious to see their conditioning is excellent right now. Heading into the contest as underdogs is something they will enjoy and no new injuries are reported.
Conclusion & betting analysis
I said in my pre tournament preview that Ghana were my lay of this African Nations. I opted not to go against them facing Uganda, but I certainly will oppose them here. In all truth, I don't personally see much difference between the two teams on paper, especially with Rahman and Andre Ayew likely out. You could argue that at this present time in this tournament Mali are the better side. Therefore, being able to back them on a +0.25 handicap looks generous in my opinion. At very worst they can obtain a draw but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they win. I have a feeling this will be an open game, possibly ending over. But due to the poor state of the pitch here in Port Gentil I think it’s best to swerve that market. I’ll just stick with Mali and hope they deliver the goods.
Prediction: Ghana 1-2 Mali
Recommended bet 1 unit: Mali +0.25 @ 1.95 (minimum odds acceptable 1.75)