Mali wins bronze in Africa Cup of Nations

Mali wins bronze in Africa Cup of Nations

PORT ELIZABETH - The Associated Press
Mali wins bronze in Africa Cup of Nations

Malian players celebrate with their bronze medals at the end of the 2013 African Cup of Nations third-place playoff game against Ghana in Port Elizabeth. AFP photo

Mali defeated Ghana 3-1 to finish third in the African Cup of Nations on Feb. 9, overcoming the Black Stars for the second consecutive year in the consolation match.

Striker Mahamadou Samassa opened the scoring with a header in the 21st minute, captain Seydou Keita added to the lead with a close-range shot in the 48th, and Sigamary Diarra sealed the victory in stoppage time, ending Mali’s emotional campaign.

Kwadwo Asamoah scored for Ghana in the 82nd. Ghana midfielder Wakaso Mubarak missed a penalty kick early in the second half, his first miss in four spot-kicks at this African Cup.

Last year, Mali beat Ghana 2-0 in the consolation match. It entered this year’s tournament with players saying they were motivated to bring joy to fans enduring political instability and fighting back home.

“I’m proud. The players worked hard for this bronze medal,” Mali coach Patrice Carteron said. “For a nation like Mali, this is a fantastic result.”

The loss at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Feb. 9 added even more disappointment to Ghana, which reached the semifinals the last four times but was leaving without the title again.

Ghana was relegated to the third-place match after losing the semifinal to Burkina Faso in a penalty shootout.

“The players did so well getting to the semifinals,” Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said. “It’s disappointing but the group is young and in the future they will do well because they will be more experienced.”

Mali, whose best performance came with a runner-up finish in 1972, was trying to make it to the final for the first time in more than 40 years, but its hopes of a first title ended after a 4-1 defeat to Nigeria in the semis.

The Malians dedicated this latest uplifting campaign to their conflict-torn home country, where French troops are fighting Islamist extremists.