Ghana v Mali preview
Captain Mensah missing for Ghana in Group D encounter
Last Updated: January 28, 2012 10:30am
Ghana will be without their captain John Mensah when they clash with West African rivals Mali in the AFCON on Saturday.
Defender Mensa is suspended for the Group D encounter following his dismissal in the 1-0 win over minnows Botswana. He should return for the next tie with Guinea provided he recovers from a muscle complaint.
Jonathan Mensah, who was introduced after his namesake's sending off, is likely to partner John Boye in central defence. Boye was named man of the match against the Zebras, saving Ghana's blushes with an acrobatic goal-line clearance to deny Patrick Motsepe an equaliser at Stade de Franceville.
Head coach Goran Stevanovich is confident his team will cope without their captain.
"It's difficult to replace a player like Mensah but I have told the team that I would need all of them for this tournament and so I have 20 players who could replace him against Mali," he said.
Stevanovich conceded that much of the pressure is on Ghana given their billing as tournament contenders.
"It's difficult when you are one of the pre-tournament favourites," he said.
"We have already learnt that it is not easy to beat any team here. We therefore have to be ready for Mali."
In other team news, Stevenovich hopes star striker Asamoah Gyan shakes off an ankle complaint. The UAE-based hitman faces a late fitness test after limping out of training on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Mali superstar Seydou Keita backs The Eagles to spring an upset at the weekend.
"Ghana remain the favourites in our group, but the Black Stars are not unbeatable," said Keita, who was very emotional after a 1-0 win over Guinea on Tuesday.
"The objective is to play to our potential and get a positive result on Saturday."
He added: "We have not achieved anything yet and in football, things can happen so fast and so our second game against Ghana will be a lot more decisive."
Africa Cup of Nations Group A
Africa Cup of Nations Group B
Africa Cup of Nations Group C
Africa Cup of Nations Group D