Ghana and Mali will clash in Group D of the African Cup of Nations on Saturday with either side aware that a win would put them in the comfort zone, the quarter-finals.

Their meeting is one of the tournament’s biggest pairings so far.

After opening wins for both nations, the early exit of Senegal and Burkina Faso in the first round is enough, a reminder at least for them to avert following a similar route ahead of the game at the Stade de Franceville.

Ghana defender John Paintsil says “it’s a crucial game” with both sides looking to take all the spoils.

“It’s a game that we are going to call it a do or die affair. That’s the game that would qualify us to the quarterfinal,” he added.

For Mali coach Alain Giresse, they are motivated to beat the Black Stars and wrap up second round qualification even before their final group game.

“Ghana is a very strong team and will be a big mistake to underestimate them. They have quality players and our aim will be to get all three points from them,” said Giresse, at his team’s base in Bongoville.

Ghana’s preparation has been lifted with the return of Asamoah Gyan to training after the striker was withdrawn on Thursday.

Gyan joined his colleagues on Friday in the final session ahead of the game. GNA

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