DURBAN (Reuters) – Ghana are in pole position to finish top of the Group B standings at the African Nations Cup and stay on in Port Elizabeth for the start of the knockout round at the weekend.
A win over Niger, who gained their first-ever Nations Cup point in their last match on Thursday, will ensure they avoid a meeting in the last eight with hosts South Africa and instead take on the Cape Verde Islands on Saturday.
Ghana start the last set of group games on Monday with four points, one ahead of Mali and two ahead of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But Niger, who are participating at only their second finals, are also still in with a chance if they continue the run of upsets at the tournament and beat the Black Stars at Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Mali can afford a draw in their meeting with the Congolese in Durban at the same time and still advance but permutations might mean they need a win to progress to the weekend’s quarter-finals.
Congo must win to stand any chance of progress and keep up coach Claude Le Roy’s record of having got through the group phase of each of the six previous Nations Cup finals he has worked at.
South Africa finished top of Group A on Sunday but only just as they twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Morocco, who were eliminated.
Cape Verde added to their fairytale story at the tournament by beating Angola 2-1 and grabbing second place in the group.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)
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