THE Al Salam Stadium in Cairo will be the battleground when the Black Meteors meet bogey side Mali in a must-win match for both sides.
While the Meteors need the maximum points, hoping that host nation Egypt beat Cameroon to pave way for the Ghanaians to qualify for the semi-final, the Malians who lost their first two matches against Egypt and Cameroon want to use Ghana as the sacrificial lamb to pick some points before returning home.
Egypt occupy the top spot of Group A with the maximum six points and have already booked a place to the semi-finals so they may not field a strong side against Cameroon who need just a draw to join Egypt at the semi-final stage.
When the Meteors picked a point in their first match against Cameroon in their first Group A match, there was a semblance of hope that they would lift their game against host nation Egypt and pick at least a point to make qualification to the semi-final certain.
The Meteors, however, shot themselves in the foot when after taking the lead against Egypt on two occasions in their second match last Monday, they allowed the Egyptians to muzzle them for the three points when they conceded at the 89th minute to surrender the points to the host nation.
It is for this reason that their match against Mali has been described by some football fans as hopeless, especially considering that Mali who have now become the whipping men in the tournament -having gone down against both Egypt and Cameroon -would like to use the Meteors as the sacrificial lamb to appease their fans.
In his post-match interview last Monday, this is what coach Ibrahim Tanko said: “We will play to win against Mali and hope for a favourable result from Egypt match against Cameroon.”
Incidentally, while coach Ibrahim Tanko is banking his hopes on Egypt to beat Cameroon while his charges add to the woes of Mali, his Malian counterpart, Fanyieri Diarra, says their only hope is to beat Ghana so they will return home with a semblance of smiles on their faces.
“This is football. Sometimes you do everything but you just can’t win. We will give our best for a positive result against Ghana despite the fact we have already disqualified,” Coach Fanyieri Diarra gave an assurance.
The battle of words of both coaches would be translated into action when the two teams meet at the Al Salam Stadium this evening, but the results can go either way.