John Boye

Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Ghana and Algeria go through to the knockout rounds

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Six of eight knockout round slots are filled for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, and a couple well-known names are going home.

[ MORE: Asian Cup roundup ]

Of course, that’s good news for Newcastle, which will get Papiss Cisse back from Senegal after Tuesday’s round of matches.

Let’s dig into Tuesday’s action.

Senegal 0-2 Algeria

A pair of Premier Leaguers prodded Algeria into the next round of Africa Cup of Nations with goals on either side of halftime. Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City and Spurs’ Nabil Bentaleb were on the score sheet for El Khadra.

The battle of French managers went to the World Cup heroes of Algeria, which will get the winner of Group D.

South Africa 1-2 Ghana

Bafana Bafana had the Black Stars of Ghana down, but Andre Ayew and John Boye made sure they didn’t go out in the group stage of AFCON.

After Mandla Masango scored a stunner to put South Africa on top after 17 minutes, Ghana waited til the late stages to find the equalizer and winner. First Boye made it 1-1 in the 73rd minute before Ayew headed home a Baba Rahman cross to give them an 83rd minute lead.

Ghana will face the runner-up of Group D, which  is currently level with all four teams on two points.

WATCH: Top 10 goals of the 2014 World Cup’s group stage

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There have been a flurry of goals this World Cup – 136 of them so far, to be exact – and it doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Those 136 goals mark the most ever in a World Cup group stage, and it even set the record for most goals per game to beat out earlier World Cups with fewer qualified teams.

Every single World Cup team scored in the group stage. Many were beautiful, a few were spectacular, but they all counted the same.

So with that in mind, we’re set to run through the best ten goals of the World Cup group stage.

10. Claudio Marchisio vs. England

Italy bowed out disappointingly in the group stage, but they have one point of brilliance to hold onto from the team’s only win.  Scoreless against England late in the first half, they struck on a set-piece.  A corner came through low towards the top of the box, and Andrea Pirlo’s perfect dummy teed up midfielder Claudio Marchisio.  The midfielder struck a rocket along the ground perfectly into the far corner past Joe Hart for the game’s opening goal.

Unfortunately, Marchisio would follow that up with two dreadful performances against Costa Rica and Uruguay, culminating in a straight red in the finale.

9. Silvestre Varela vs. United States

With the United States on the brink of securing a guaranteed place in the knockout round and Portugal themselves on the precipice of elimination, star forward Cristiano Ronaldo combined with substitute striker Silvestre Varela to produce an equalizer that would prolong their country’s chances at making the knockout stage.

In the 95th minute with literally the last kick of the game, Ronaldo sent in a cross worthy of his Ballon d’Or, and it found the head of the streaking Varela to beat Geoff Cameron and give the game a 2-2 final score.  The situation and the build-up play give this goal the flair it needs to be on this list.

8. Clint Dempsey vs. Ghana

The fifth-fastest World Cup goal ever, Clint Dempsey opened school for John Boye and gave the United States a vital early lead after just 29 seconds against Ghana in a must-win match.

DaMarcus Beasley’s ball up the left flank was one-touch passed to Dempsey from Jermaine Jones, and the US striker did the rest as he deked passed Boye and hit the far corner with his low shot.

7. Memphis Depay vs. Australia

The up-and-coming Dutch midfielder secured the match-winner as his team went on to beat a pesky Australia 3-2 and mark one of their three group-stage wins.  Depay, just 20 years old, came onto the field when defender Bruno Martins Indi was forced off after a challenge from Tim Cahill.

With the game knotted at two each, Depay blasted a strike from well outside the box that curved and dipped, finally bouncing just in front of Maty Ryan and ended up in the far corner.  The goal was Depay’s first for his country.

6. James Rodriguez vs. Japan

With Colombia dominating its Asian opponents en route to its Group C victory, James Rodriguez wasn’t going to leave Cuiaba empty-handed. In stoppage time already up 3-1, the Monaco forward produced an amazing piece of individual skill to plant Japanese defender Maya Yoshida flat on his back after a complete 360.

5. John Brooks vs. Ghana

A winner that resonated all the way across the United States, the header by John Brooks earned the US three of their four eventual Group D points and was essential to their knockout-stage qualification.

Coming in the 87th minute against their arch-nemesis Ghana, the 21-year-old German-American defender – on as a substitute for an injured Matt Besler – picked out Graham Zusi’s corner and put it straight at the ground, bouncing it past Ghana goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey for the winner.  The ball actually just barely missed the head of Geoff Cameron who attempted to put the ball on net just in front of Brooks, so the youngster gets added points for not losing focus despite his teammate’s attempt in his face.

Jermaine Jones also bagged a pretty impressive goal for the United States against Portugal, but this one earned the US three points, and that alone gives it the trump card onto the list.

4. Lionel Messi vs. Iran

Lionel Messi has come to play in this World Cup. Playing on his home continent, he’s been the star man for Argentina despite plenty of doubters.  He earned three points with a late winner against Iran, a classic Messi goal in injury time, finding himself space at the top of the box before finding the far corner with the ball.  Nothing a diving Alireza Haghighi could do about that one.

3. Xherdan Shaqiri vs. Honduras (#1)

Scoring a goal quite similar in look to the Messi one was young Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri.  The Bayern Munich player doesn’t have a central role for his German giant, but for the national team he’s their main man. Needing a result against Honduras to advance past the group stage, Shaqiri bagged himself a hat-trick, but he’ll be hard-pressed to beat his first.

Just six minutes in, Shaqiri cranked a long-range shot perfectly into the top corner to set the tone early.

2. Tim Cahill vs. Netherlands

If it weren’t for the absolute stunning nature of our #1 goal, this one surely had Goal of the Tournament flair.  Having fallen behind just a minute prior, a Ryan McGowan long-ball from the midfield found Cahill streaking on goal, and despite being marked well by Stefan de Vrij, the New York Red Bulls striker ripped an immaculate volley off the crossbar and over the goal line before the ball could even touch the ground.

1. Robin van Persie vs. Spain

With the Netherlands under pressure from a bright Spanish start, the Dutch found themselves down 1-0.  Just as the sides were ready to go into halftime, Manchester United striker Robin van Persie produced one of the moments of the World Cup so far, and on just the second day of the tournament.

An absolutely perfect lofted ball from the defending half by Daley Blind caught van Persie flying on goal, and the Dutch striker launched himself through the air, connecting with the diving header and putting the ball past Iker Casillas.  Tied up at the break, the Dutch would go on to dismantle Spain in the second half, announcing to the 2014 World Cup how things would go in the group stage.

Honorable mention: Miroslav Klose vs. Ghana

This goal has to be mentioned at least once because it tied the all-time record for World Cup goals.  It would have made this list too if there hadn’t been so many beautiful strikes, since his run was timed perfectly and it secured a valuable point for the Germans, but nonetheless it deserves to be given its due.  We may yet see Klose break the record in the knockout stages if Germany progresses to the later rounds.

[ MORE: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly.com]

Cristiano taketh away, and Cristiano giveth: Portugal beats Ghana 2-1 late

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s point-blank goal in the 80th minute allowed American soccer fans to breathe and condemned Ghana to four years of torment, as Portugal defeated Ghana 2-1 in their Group G finale.

Ronaldo had all kinds of trouble beating Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda, and it took a Ghanaian gaffe to give Portugal its first goal.

Miguel Veloso’s cross into the box was deflected past Dauda by Ghana defender John Boye, giving Portugal a 1-0 lead.

As if informed Germany had gone up 1-0, Ghana’s star — Asamoah Gyan — headed home a cross from Juventus’ Kwadwo Asamoah to make the game more dramatic at 1-1.

The match was a combination of borderline tackles and big hits on Ronaldo. Clearly, Ghana was abiding by the Atletico Madrid, USA and German philosophy of tackling the heck out of one of the world’s elite talents.

Ghana nearly put doom in the American hopes in the 61st minute, when Majeed Waris turned a point-blank header wide of the goal off a brilliant cross from Gyan.

The CAF side picked up a dangerous free kick from 10 yards inside the corner flag and just inside the end line, but Portugal cleared the 68th minute chance. Ghana was looming and Portugal was looking beat-up.

That might be an overstatement. While the rested Black Stars were racing up the flanks, Portugal was barely keeping up.

But just as it was going to be over for the States, Ronaldo pounced on a botched Dauda catch to score the winner.

Lineups

Portugal: Beto, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Veloso, William Carvalho, Ronaldo (c), Moutinho, Eder (Vieirinha, 70′), Nani, Amorim, Pereira (Varela, 61′)

Goals: Boye o.g. (31′), Ronaldo (80′)

Ghana: Dauda, Gyan (c), Atsu, Agyemang Badu, A. Ayew, Rabiu (Afriyje, 76′), Waris (J. Ayew, 71′), Mensah, Asamoah, Boye, Afful

Goals: Gyan

At halftime: Dauda denying Ronaldo, but own goal mars Ghana’s half — FOLLOW LIVE

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It’s been a 1v1 drill between Cristiano Ronaldo and Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda, and the latter is keeping the Black Stars alive. Otherwise, the story is a bevy of borderline-dirty tackles between the two sides, as Ghana’s abiding by the “Hurt Ronaldo” philosophy.

The Black Stars have never won a World Cup match in which they’ve conceded the game’s first goal, which they’ve done. As it stands, the US would have to fall 5-0 to not advance to the knockout round.

FOLLOW LIVE with Soccerly’s Real-time match centerFollow USA vs. Germany | Portugal vs. Ghana ]

Goals:

30′ – Well, this is what it was going to take to beat Dauda. Veloso’s cross was put into the net on a poor clearance from John Boye (not the one from The Waltons), who was colliding with Joao Moutinho.

Other key moments:

6′ – Cristiano Ronaldo stings a cross/shot off the crossbar in our first sign of anything other than nerves from other side. CRON wearing his third different hairstyle of the tourney. Thanks, Irina.

12′ – Ronaldo bends a hard free kick toward the right post that Dauda pushes out for a corner. Corner brings nothing.

19′ – Point-blank header for Ronaldo from the six, but he hits it right at Dauda. The keeper can barely keep it off the line, but the save is made. One they needed from one of the world’s best.

24′ – Corner to Ghana, and it turns into a total of three. Wasted chances from the Black Stars.

39′ – Atsu cuts in from the right, but his curling shot isn’t there.

43′ – Oh! Ghana right to feel aggrieved as Bruno Alves pulls down his mark in the box. Could’ve been a penalty from the right vantage point.

Lineups

Portugal: Beto, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Veloso, William Carvalho, Ronaldo (c), Moutinho, Eder, Nani, Amorim, Pereira

Ghana: Dauda, Gyan (c), Atsu, Agyemang Badu, A. Ayew, Rabiu, Waris, Mensah, Asamoah, Boye, Afful

Key Players:

  • Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal – Honestly, there might as well be no one else out there. He’s the biggest threat for either team, and it’s scary to think how Portugal’s tournament would’ve gone had he been 100 percent (assuming he isn’t).
  • Fatau Dauda, Ghana — Can this keeper possibly still be plying his trade for Orlando Pirates of South Africa when this is over? The 29-year-old is denying Ronaldo all over the place (when his crossbar isn’t).

Question for the second half:

  • Will Ghana’s need to attack help Ronaldo find more goals? – Ghana needs a ‘W’ while Portugal needs a lot more goals. Will the Black Stars pushing forward cripple their chances to contain Portugal’s No. 7?

Tighter than expected: Talking points after Germany’s draw with Ghana

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Call it the Group of Death if you want, but after Ghana tripped up Germany in Fortaleza, Group G at this year’s World Cup is all about opportunity. Four teams, all vulnerable in their own way, are challenging our notions of order and predictability, bringing some welcome uncertainty to what some saw as a top-heavy group:

  • Germany is the best team on paper, but although they controlled more of the ball on Saturday, Ghana were just as good.
  • Yet that Ghana team fell to a U.S. side that didn’t concede the opportunities they saw against the Germans. Though the Black Stars eventually found a way, they also gave up two goals en route to a 2-1 loss.
  • And that U.S. team that looked so solid against Ghana? Unfortunately, the wasn’t much more than that organized approach. Can the team generate enough chances to force their way into the knockout round?
  • And Portugal? Who knows, but their toughest game may be behind them, and in Cristiano Ronaldo, they still have one of the two best players in the world. They may collapse under the absences of Pepe, Fabio Coentrão, and Rui Patricio, but they also have the talent to take six points in their final games.

That’s the chaotic state of Group G after today’s match in Fortaleza. Here’s three other takeaways from the 2-2 result:

[ MORE: Klose equalizer salvages result for Germany ]
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1. The gap is smaller than we thought – Germany were the clear group favorites — they are the clear group favorites — but as we’ve been reminded throughout Brazil 2014, the gap between the titans and the pack just isn’t that big. Perhaps that’s because of the increasingly demanding European season. Maybe it’s the challenges of a tournament in a large country with varying climates. Regardless, huge pre-tournament favorites like Argentina, Brazil, and Spain have been proven flawed, if not outright overrated.

Today, Germany joined that group, but the credit needs to go to Ghana. In the first half, we saw what the potential of that German attack, but a series of strong plays from defender John Boye helped keep the favorites off the board. As bad as Boye was against the U.S., he was that valuable on Saturday.

Boye wasn’t the only player who stepped up. André Ayew won a one-on-one battle with Shkodran Mustafi on Ghana’s opening goal, while a great play from Sulley Muntari allowed the Milan midfielder to create a turnover and set up Asamoah Gyan’s 63rd minute finish. Late in the match, Jonathan Mensah and Kwadwo Asamoah made penalty box stops as Germany fought through their fatigue and pressed for a winner.

Germany played well on Saturday, but so did Ghana. The gap between the two teams was just smaller than we thought.

2. Löw’s fullback lament – Germany has attacking talent that rivals any nation in the world, but they’ve slowing become the European Argentina. For all the danger they pose going forward, there are serious questions at the back, where the national team remains vulnerable.

Particularly with Philipp Lahm playing in the middle, those problems are at full back. Jerome Boateng, more comfortable in central defense, started at right back. Benedikt Höwedes, more comfortable in central defense, started at left back. When Joachim Löw made a change at half time, bringing in Shkodran Mustafi for Boateng at halftime, it cost him. The Lazio defender was beaten for Ghana’s first goal.

Löw has often lamented his lack of options at full back, but he has alternatives. With Bastian Schweinsteiger an option in the middle, perhaps Lahm can be moved back to his natural position.

Or maybe defense is just a flaw the Germans have to overcome. Regardless, as Ghana showed throughout Saturday’s 90 minutes, Löw’s team remains vulnerable at the back, making it even more important they maintain control of the ball.

3. It wasn’t ideal, but things are still breaking nicely for the U.S. – A Germany win could have dealt Ghana a mortal blow, but things continue to look up for the U.S. With a win tomorrow, they secure a place in the knockout round.

That fate would have been the same with a Germany win, however, so how does today’s draw change the States’ picture? Ghana, now capable of getting to four points, will be alive on Thursday, no matter what. Plus, Germany has something to play for against the U.S. There’s no scenario that puts the Germans through before they kick off in Recife.

The upside for the States? They have a viable route to claiming first in Group G. Two points will put them into the knockout round, but four points win the group. Instead of Belgium in the round of 16, the U.S. could face Algeria, Russia, or South Korea …

… provided they get there at all. As today’s result in Fortaleza reminds us, nothing’s guaranteed in this year’s World Cup.