Egypt confirmed their spot in the quarterfinals of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday after a beautiful free-kick from Mohamed Salah condemned Ghana to a 1-0 defeat in Port-Gentil.
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The seven-time champions came into the game needing only a draw to secure a last eight berth but the victory allowed them to leapfrog already-qualified Ghana and qualify as group winners.
While the Black Stars may not be too bothered with the loss, they’ll be with what looked to be a groin injury to skipper and talisman Asamoah Gyan who was making his 99th international appearance and was looking to score his 50th goal for his country.
He was replaced by Jordan Ayew, but Ghanaians have the unsavoury prospect of being without their record goalscorer as they seek a fifth Cup of Nations and a first since 1982.
The Pharaohs went in front in the 10th minute after a genius moment from their star man Salah who left Ghana goalie Razak Brimah rooted to the spot with his free-kick on his left foot from 23 yards.
Ghana, who not too long ago massacred Egypt 6-1 in a World Cup qualifier, came firing in the second half and forced Egypt’s 44-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary into two massive saves.
First, the veteran goalie parried away a powerful long-range strike by Emmanuel Agyemang Badu midway through the second period, and then he flew high to his right to pull off a more impressive save from Jordan Ayew in the 90th minute.
Elsewhere, Mali needing to win to maintain hopes of staying alive, could only play a 1-1 draw with already-eliminated Uganda in treacherous conditions in Oyem.
In a rain-swept pitch, the Cranes of Uganda went in front 20 minutes through Standard Liege forward Faruku Miya’s brilliant strike, but Mali were level three minutes later, Yves Bissouma rifling in a free-kick from fully 30 yards.
Egypt will now stay in the port city of Port-Gentil for a last-eight tie against Herve Renard’s Morocco on Sunday evening, while Ghana travel to Oyem for a quarterfinal against DR Congo.