DR Congo v Ghana: Gyan injury hangs over Black Stars
Ghana head into Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final against DR Congo with coach Avram Grant facing criticism for risking the fitness of captain Asamoah Gyan in their last group game.
The Black Stars, runners-up to Ivory Coast in the last edition of the tournament two years ago, had already secured their place in the last eight before meeting Egypt on Wednesday.
Grant opted to start talisman Gyan, a choice which backfired when the skipper limped out of the action shortly before half-time with a groin injury.
On Friday, Ghana confirmed that "tests have shown that the injury is not as bad as initially feared", which will come as welcome relief to Grant, who is already without Baba Rahman after the defender suffered a serious knee injury against Uganda.
And Grant was forced to defend his selection policy in the build-up to Sunday's quarter-final in Oyem.
He said. "Gyan has had a lack of games in the last half a year and he felt very good and wanted to play. The plan was again to let him play 60 minutes, but what has happened has happened and this is football."
After 1-0 wins over Uganda and Mali, Ghana's defeat to Egypt by the same scoreline saw them qualify as runners-up in Group D, while their opponents progressed unbeaten as winners of Group C.
Florent Ibenge's side opened with a 1-0 victory over Morocco, before a 2-2 draw with Ivory Coast and a 3-1 success over Togo, with Junior Kabananga scoring once in each game to enter the knockout stages as the competition's top scorer.
Like Grant, Ibenge has injury concerns of his own with Newcastle United defender Chancel Mbemba a doubt with a knee problem.
"He felt it quite early in the [Togo] match, he carried on but if he doesn't improve we will not be able to use him against the Ghanaians," Ibenge said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
DR Congo - Firmin Ndombe Mubele
Kabananga's three goals have grabbed the headlines for Ibenge's men but Mubele's contributions have also been crucial. The Al Ahli striker assisted Kabananga's second goal of the tournament in the 2-2 draw with Ivory Coast, before getting on the scoresheet himself, doubling the Leopards' lead in the win over Togo.
Ghana - Jordan Ayew
Should Gyan not make a full recovery from his groin injury, the younger Ayew sibling will have to shoulder extra attacking responsibility. The Aston Villa forward has already proved his worth in that regard, crossing for his captain to head home the winner in the 1-0 win over Mali. He and elder brother Andre may have to step up in the event of Gyan's absence.
Key Opta stats:
- These sides have met seven times previously in the Africa Cup of Nations; Ghana claiming four victories to DR Congo's two (D1).
- Ghana come into this quarter-final unbeaten in their last five matches against DR Congo; keeping clean sheets in three of those games.
- Ghana are the only team to have reached the semi-finals in each of the last five AFCON tournaments. They've conceded only one goal in their last four AFCON quarter-finals.
- DR Congo have lost only one of their last 12 AFCON games (W3 D8), their only defeat in that sequence coming in the 2015 semis against eventual winners Ivory Coast (1-3).
- No team scored more goals in the 2017 group stages than DR Congo (six) whilst no side scored fewer goals than Ghana in this year's group stages among the eight teams that reached the quarter finals (two, alongside Egypt).