GHANA coach Kwesi Appiah is hoping rising star Christian Atsu provides the spark his team need to beat Mali in a “winner takes all” Group B Africa Cup of Nations soccer showdown at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow.
The Black Stars are desperate for a win after they were held to a 2-2 draw in a gripping opening group match on Sunday which set the tournament alight after a goalless opening day’s action.
Mali will start tomorrow’s game as group leaders after they sneaked a 1-0 win over Niger in their opening match. This crunch match promises to be one of the hardest fought in the tournament and the stakes are high for both teams.
After the opening match between Ghana and Mali at 5pm tomorrow, Niger will clash with DR Congo at 8pm in a double-header at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
More than 20000 fans watched the opening games on Sunday, and tournament organisers hope another big crowd will watch the action tomorrow.
“Sunday’s matches in PE set the tone for the tournament and I was delighted that the games were so well supported. I expect another big crowd tomorrow,” EP soccer boss Mzimhkulu Fina said.
Confident Ghana coach Appiah has predicted that the hugely talented Atsu will start to find his rhythm against Mali.
Atsu failed to live up to expectations in the game against Congo and he will have to lift his game several notches tomorrow.
The Porto star did not set the stage alight in the opening game and that will come as a surprise to the host of European sides who showed an interest in Atsu during last June’s transfer window.
One of the new breed of stars making his Afcon debut, Atsu might be key in whether Ghana progress through to the quarterfinals.
“Atsu is one of the young talents that every Ghanaian relied on to start very well in such a competition,” Appiah told MTNFootball.com.
“You could be the best player in the world but once you go into a competition that you have not been in before, you may start slowly.
“I have been talking to him and we need to raise his confidence level and psyche him up.
“And I believe that, even though we did not have a good game against Congo, you will see the real Atsu against Niger.”
Mali coach Patrice Carteron says his team are ready for Ghana after a morale-boosting win against Niger in their first group match.
Mali captain Seydou Keita scored the only goal of the match in the 84th minute.