Ghana eliminated from African Cup of Nations
A lacklustre Ghana crashed out of the African Nations after defeat to Zimbabwe on Tuesday. An Issah Ahmed own-goal and a Benjani strike put Zimbabwe 2-0 up with Baba Adamu getting a consolation for Ghana. Senegal lost 2-1 to Nigeria but go through to the quarter finals on goal-difference.
The precarious situation before the match meant that any of the four sides could qualify for the quarter finals, with Senegal needing to at least equal Ghana's result, Ghana needing to better Senegal and Zimbabwe needing a heavy win and a Nigeria victory.
Zimbabwe gave Ghana early frights on a number of occasions, Benjani unjustly called offside twice when through on goal with Peter Ndlovu and Esrom Nyandoro both going close.
With captain Stephen Appiah half-fit and and Laryea Kingston suspended, the Ghanaian midfield looked non-existent for most of the match, as Zimbabwe worked hard to earn their first win of the competition.
Ghana looked uncertain at the back, still missing Sammy Kuffour in spite the Roma man declaring himself fit. They relied on good goalkeeping by Sammy Adjei and wayward finishing from Benjani and Nyandoro to stay in the game, the shape of which was all changed when Senegal went 1-0 up against Nigeria through Souleymane Camara on 58 minutes.
Ghana looked shell-shocked and almost immediately they paid for the lack of concentration, a Zimbabwe corner punched out by Adjei with the loose ball lofted in by Cepas Chimedza and headed into his own net by the hapless Emmanuel Pappoe.
Ghana finally found some urgency, pushing forward and finally biting in mdifield. They were leaving space at the back however, eventually punished by Benjani who ran onto a long ball which Issa Ahmed couldn't deal with, and suspicious shoulder countrol aside finishing sweetly past Adjei for 2-0.
The Black Stars needed a miraculous comeback - ideally with help from Nigeria too - but looked sluggish and almost went three down. Nigeria equalised against Senegal late on, which left the complex situation whereby if Nigeria scored again to win, Ghana or Zimbabwe could go through but both would need to score to overhaul Senegal's goal difference.
And Nigeria did score, Obafemi Martins with his second with two minutes remaining, a desparate Charles Mhluari wildy gesticulating to his Zimbabwe charges to urge them on for a late third.
Heart-breakingly for Zimbabwe Joel Lupahla had the ball in the back of the net in the last minute, but his finish after superb work from Benjani was correctly adjudged to be offside. In injury time Baba Adamu hammered a consolation in for Ghana, but there was to be no miracle for either side and Ghana crashed out, coming bottom of group D and only with themselves to blame.
"This was the best squad we could assemble for this tournament," Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic said. "We have some time to prepare before the World Cup."
Nigeria go through as group-winners with nine points while Senegal finished level on points with Ghana and Zimbabwe but progress because of a better goal difference.
Nigeria will play Tunisia in the last-eight and Senegal will take on Guinea.
Ghana: Sammy Adjel, John Pantsil, Gabriel Issah, John Mensah, Emmanuel Pappoe, Daniel Edusei, Abubakari Yakubu, Stephen Appiah, Haminu, Prince Tagoe/Baba Amandu, Joe Tex Frimpong