Ghana finally came good at the African Nations Championship in Côte d'Ivoire to outclass Congo DR 3-0 and qualify for the semi-finals. The joint top seeds in the maiden edition of a tournament for local-based players finished top of Group B with five points followed by Congo DR with four, Zimbabwe with three and Libya with two.
Another boost for the Black Stars is that they will remain in the central textile city of Bouake for a semi-final showdown with Senegal on Wednesday, while Congo DR travel to face Zambia in Abidjan later the same day. Zambia topped Group A on goal difference from Senegal after both drew their final matches on 28 February against Tanzania and hosts Côte d'Ivoire, who managed just one point from three matches.
While Ghana celebrated an unexpectedly easy win over the previously unbeaten Congolese, pre-tournament outsiders Zimbabwe cursed their luck at being eliminated without losing a game. The Warriors finished with a 0-0 draw against Libya in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan and will rue allowing Ghana to snatch a point, after trailing by two goals in the opening series of mini-league matches.
Forced to come from behind against Zimbabwe and Libya to snatch draws, Ghana knew nothing less than victory over Congo DR would assure them of a place in the knockout phase. The West Africans also wanted to enhance an image spoiled by the sending off of defender Ofusu Appiah against Zimbabwe and coach Milovan Rajevac against Libya.
Midfielder Charles Taylor broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time, beating experienced Congolese goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba with a long-range free-kick. Yaw Antwi added a second through a shot from inside the penalty area and Edmund Owusu Ansah connected with an Ibrahim Ayew cross in the closing stages to claim his second goal of the tournament.
Libyan Osama Hamadi squandered the best chance of the first half, while Zimbabwe captain Gilbert Banda failed to control a Ovidy Karuru cross when unmarked with only goalkeeper Samir Aboud to beat. Both teams ultimately paid a high price for cautious tactics in only the second football match between the countries, seeking to exploit mistakes rather than take risks going forward.