John Boye

Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

AFCON wrap: Pote’s beauty helps Benin draw Ghana; Cameroon wins

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All 24 teams at the Africa Cup of Nations have a match in the books as of Tuesday, and we’ve got another tournament surprise.

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Having already seen Uganda upset the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar draw Guinea, this one came when Ghana met Benin.

It was aided by a red card to Ghana, but the 88th ranked Les Écureuils (Squirrels) of Benin managed a result.


Cameroon 2-0 Guinea-Bissau

Scoreless at halftime, Cameroon saw Yaya Banana and Stephane Bahoken score three minutes apart to give the Indomitable Lions the Group F lead on Day One of group play.

Ghana 2-2 Benin

Mickael Pote scored first and last, giving Benin a valuable point against 10-man Ghana.

The Black Stars went behind in the second minute on Pote’s first, only to get Andre Ayew and Jordan Ayew goals on either side of halftime to build a lead of their own.

But John Boye took a 54th minute red card and Pote potted his second nine minutes later to give Benin an early Group F bonus.

How about this sweep behind the leg?

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.

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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?